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Public Access to Zika Data in order to Raise Awareness

Raising public awareness helps prevent Zika spread further.

Photo of weiwei Zhang
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  • What is Zika Virus?
  • Means of Transmission of Zika Virus?
  • What are the symptoms and consequences of people who get infected by Zika Virus?
  • What are the obstacles in fighting Zika in US?

What is Zika Virus?

Zika virus is a virus first found in Uganda in 1947. Starting in 2015, it is spreading across the world and is identified by the World Health Organization as a Public Health Emergency of International Concern. 

What are Means of Transmission of Zika Virus?

There are three ways a person might get infected by zika virus:

  1. A bite from mosquito, mostly aedes albopictus;
  2. Through birth;
  3. Through sextual intercorse.

What are the symptoms and consequences of people who get infected?

People get symptoms such as fever, red eyes and pain joints, and most people won't even notice if he or she get zika. However, it has a severe consequence if a pregnant women get infected by Zika because the baby will have a very high chance to develop microcephaly.

What are the obstacles in fighting Zika?

In order to fight Zika, we need to know more about it. Research scientist is doing hard to learn more about Zika and hopefully developing vaccines and other methods(e.g. mosquito army ) to combat Zika. These measures need time and money.

With summer coming and tourist season coming, mosquitos will become more and the speed of spreading zika virus will likely to get higher with travelling people. The biggest obstacle would be the difficulty to track the vectors as most people might not know if they get Zika.


For the short term, I think the best and first thing we could do is to raise public awareness of ZIKA, preventing more people getting infected.(Study estimated that there will be 4 million people getting Zika in the coming summer ).

I've searched for Zika infectious data and the results are all words and numbers which is not so easy to read(See the links at the end of the article). And I think a better data visualization will help people get the idea and it would be even better if people could report symptoms through different technology.

Therefore, I did an Zika infected cases visualization in US based on data from CDC using google's API,  I hope this could be an inspiration for better ways to displaying data and getting public awareness.


Basic informations about Zika

Zika Data in update:

Zika Data Visualization:

Crowd Sourcing Data Example


Join the conversation:

Photo of Daria González

Hey weiwei Zhang - this is a great idea! Have you heard of Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team ('HOT' - The effort works in collaboration with the Missing Maps Project (also a great initiative -, which identifies vulnerable places in the developing world using the OSM technology.  

Photo of Minh Nguyen

Vikas Meka  and Adam Crawley you all should check this out. weiwei Zhang  created a data visualization using the CDC's API! 

Thanks Weiwei. I wish there was a notification when you've come into a radius where the cases have been for people to be pinged and educated--of course there needs to be considerations not to create anxiety/panic. what do you think? I am not sure if a standalone app makes complete sense...maybe a wider campaign that is geospatially targeted.

Photo of weiwei Zhang

Thanks! Actually the map is build on google's API, and I took Zika infectious data from CDC's website, I wish CDC could build an API to share real time data though.

And thanks for your advice @Minh Nguyen! You made good point on raising awareness VS not to create anxiety. And I think additional educational information and tips on not get infected would help. And I haven't thought of how to communicate the information yet. Mobile app could be an option, how about printed on the coffee or grocery recipes? Or on the metros and buses?

Photo of Minh Nguyen

definitely a great idea to build out further and do some prototyping. have you used the designkit from openideo to do some prototyping? ( . My initial thoughts were mobile notifications while people entered where its been detected or self-reported. The challenge with detecting and tracking cases is definitely a challenge separate from the opensourcing the data...

After you prototype though you should post to our IDEAS phase below...and we can keep building on top of it! Maybe some wireframe of how it could work.

Photo of Adam Crawley

Looks great! How will you distinguish between locally acquired vs. travel acquired cases moving forward? Simple, clear data visualizations are critical for communicating risk to the public, this is great! Another fantastic news source for Zika updates is STAT news:

Photo of weiwei Zhang

Hi Adam, thanks for sharing the websites, it's really good! You raise great questions, and I don't know yet. I'm just thinking there might be separate maps for it, as different measures will be encouraged in different cases. For a place where locally acquired case is increasing, maybe measures would be taken building installations to kill mosquitoes, so links to tutorials of how to build them could be provided. Whereas a place where travel acquired case is emerging, maybe tips on preventive measures and advices on avoiding some areas could be provided.  What's your thoughts on how to visually distinguish them?

Photo of Nikhil Gangaraju

Hi wiewei this is a really interesting use of open source data to address the Zika challenge. Building on this could be predictive models based on travel patterns and other attrbutes to identify hotspots where health services focus money and resources. Minh Nguyen take a look

Photo of weiwei Zhang

Thanks Nikhil Gangaraju ! I didn't thought of a predictive model yet, as I am still looking for a good real time Zika data source that is constantly updating. The current one is just based on the static table provided by CDC. And it could be even better if the data could instantly updating with crowdsourced data.