A few weeks ago, the health services of Amsterdam tracked down an outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease using Google Earth, reports Trouw, a Dutch newspaper, today.
The details, translated from Dutch: Starting July 6, around 30 people became infected, of which two died. Soon, a certain type of “cooling tower” in the center of the city was suspected of being the culprit, but Dutch authorities did not have a list of such towers to inspect. Instead, health workers used Google Earth to visually identify all buildings in the area that had such towers on their roofs, and then contacted building management in each to determine whether it was the at-risk kind.
On July 18, one of the identified towers — on top of the old central post office building just to the east of Amsterdam’s central station — proved to be the origin of the outbreak. End of story.
You might wonder, of course, why Dutch authorities didn’t use some kind of official national imaging system. I suspect the reason is that Google Earth’s dataset (minus the bits censored by the Dutch government) is pretty much as good as it gets when it comes to coverage of Amsterdam, and that speed was of the essence. Still, a large area just to the east of the central station is thoroughly censored (it’s the Navy barracks in Amsterdam), so imagine if that’s where the outbreak had in fact started — they’d still be looking. (Via Jan Marijnissen Weblog)