Gene portals (e.g., Entrez Gene  and Ensembl ) and model organism databases (e.g., Mouse Genome Database , Rat Genome Database , FlyBase ) are popular and useful tools for researching gene annotation and enforcing data standards. These databases provide a large volume and diversity of information on each gene, including protein and transcript sequences, genome location, genomic structure, aliases, links to literature, and gene function. These sites are considered to be the definitive sources for these types of gene annotation. However, by their very nature as authoritative annotation sources, the data displayed on these sites must be subjected to a high degree of oversight by expert curators. In short, the data model used by gene portals and model organism databases focuses on large contributions from a relatively small number of contributors.
* Valuable information about infectious diseases is found in Web-accessible information sources such as discussion forums, mailing lists, government Web sites, and news outlets.
* Web-based electronic information sources can play an important role in early event detection and support situational awareness by providing current, highly local information about outbreaks, even from areas relatively invisible to traditional global public health efforts.
* While these sources are potentially useful, information overload and difficulties in distinguishing "signal from noise" pose substantial barriers to fully utilizing this information.
* HealthMap is a freely accessible, automated real-time system that monitors, organizes, integrates, filters, visualizes, and disseminates online information about emerging diseases.
* The goal of HealthMap is to deliver real-time intelligence on a broad range of emerging infectious diseases for a diverse audience, from public health officials to international travelers.
* Ultimately, the use of news media and other nontraditional sources of surveillance data can facilitate early outbreak detection, increase public awareness of disease outbreaks prior to their formal recognition, and provide an integrated and contextualized view of global health information.