Marty Cetron knows first-hand that diseases have no borders. As a high school student, Cetron remembers his father returning from Mexico suffering from a form of hepatitis; he also recalls wondering why no one could initially diagnose his father’s illness. Now as director of the CDC’s Division of Global Migration and Quarantine, Cetron understands as well as anyone how today’s mobile populations impact the spread of disease.
Cetron was instrumental in the development of BioMosaic, a big data tool that creates a comprehensive picture of potential foreign-borne disease threats in the United States, by merging three separate data tools into a single app.
For the last four years, the CDC has used BioMosaic to monitor the risk to U.S. citizens from diseases like Ebola and the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome. The tool combines airline records, disease reports and demographic information on people who leave affected areas and head for the U.S. The data is funneled to public health officials through a website and an iPad app.
After the 2010 earthquake in Haiti and subsequent cholera epidemic, BioMosaic showed where clusters of Haitian-born residents in the U.S. were most likely to live, along with air and sea travel routes to and from Haiti, to pinpoint where anti-cholera measures in the U.S. would be most useful.
During the height of the Ebola scare last year, Cetron was a beacon for calm and a trusted source on the spread of infectious disease. For instance, he argued against restricting travel to and from West African countries, reasoning that such a move would only force travelers to take circuitous routes, making the spread of the disease even harder to track.
Jim McKay is the editor of Emergency Management magazine. He lives in Orangevale, Calif., with his daughter, Ellie, and son, Ronan. He relaxes by fly fishing on the Truckee River for big, wild trout.