Internet tech keeps tabs on increasing number of swine flu cases

Web-based technology continues to play a critical role as more cases of swine flu are being reported throughout the world.

Between Monday morning and Tuesday morning, Google maps have shown an increase, from 20 to 40, in the number of "pins' indicating documented cases of the flu in the United States.

Also, cases of the swine flu were confirmed Tuesday in Israel and New Zealand. And The World Health Organization raised its pandemic threat level from 3 to 4, two levels below a full-scale pandemic.

The swine flu epidemic is believed to have started in Mexico, where more than 100 deaths have been reported as being caused by the illness.

Both the WHO and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are using technology to help track the fast-moving flu and disseminate information and communicate among countries.

In the United States, state officials are working with hospitals to ensure they are prepared in the event the number and severity of cases grows.

Google maps, RSS feeds and Twitter are among the methods of communication employed by officials, and the public is sharing information at a faster rate than ever before, public health officials say.

The CDC and WHO are posting on their Web sites up-to-the-minute information about new cases of the flu. They also offer recommendations on how the public and local and state officials should respond to the threat.

The CDC is working with officials in states where human cases of A/H1N1 have been identified, as well as with health officials in Mexico, Canada and the WHO, according to a notice on the CDC Web site Monday.

"This includes deploying staff domestically and internationally to provide guidance and technical support," the notice states. "CDC has activated its Emergency Operations Center to coordinate this investigation."