Fighting Pandemics Like H1N1 in Digital Age

HealthMap Outbreaks Near Me is among scores of iPhone apps, along with social networks, Wikipedia and flu-tracking sites, giving consumers new ways to share information and keep tabs on swine flu and other health threats.

Consumers now can help paint a fuller picture of what's happening and complement the often delayed and restrained announcements from health officials.

While swine flu infections have been waning since October, the apps and other digital tools have transformed the way such health crises will be tracked in years to come.

But there are concerns. These digital tools could create mass panic from unreliable reports. The public is often unfamiliar with medical terminology and can mistake ordinary colds for more serious illnesses.