Viruses, rabid animals and bacterial infections do not recognize political borders. Now Israel, Jordan and the the Palestinian Authority will monitor infectious diseases with a system developed at the IBM lab in Haifa in a unique collaboration for "no-boundaries" public health information sharing. The resulting ability to easily share secure health information will improve the quality of patient care, public health and safety, says IBM. The rise of global transportation and trade increases the risk of worldwide disaster due to infectious disease. Disease reporting is required by law in most countries and under the International Health Regulations, which require all countries to report any infectious outbreak of international significance. Today, most reporting is done via fax, spreadsheet or phone calls. With public health needing near-real time data to respond quickly to emerging disease, the biggest technical challenge is the lack of standards and uniform coding systems. Thus current methods of sharing information are slow, unwieldy and in many cases almost nonexistent. In collaboration with the Middle East Consortium on Infectious Disease Surveillance (MECIDS), IBM has created a system that standardizes the sharing of health information and automates the analysis of infectious outbreaks to help contain diseases. The secure Web-based portal system, called the Public Health Information Affinity Domain (PHIAD), is being deployed in the Middle East first. This award-winning technology provides public health organizations with the decision-making tools to implement a fast, effective response to infectious disease outbreaks even across geographic and political boundaries. PHIAD uses near-real time information to facilitate fast response and enables the secure exchange of data on both national and international levels. With PHIAD, researchers at IBM's Haifa and Almaden (California) labs have virtually eliminated the time-consuming, tedious tasks common in the public health community by creating an electronic platform that allows them to focus on critical tasks such as detecting emerging public health trends, pinpointing potential outbreaks and performing sophisticated analysis. "This collaboration writes the newest chapter in a story of healthcare information technology and innovation that progressively tackles head-on the lack of integration and communication between key players in the healthcare industry worldwide," says Dan Pelino, general manager of IBM's healthcare and life sciences industry. "Built upon the same open-standards-based Health Information Exchange architecture that increasingly enables the use of electronic health records around the world, this new technology will take transformation higher, improving critical health information sharing between nations in an increasingly global economy and helping the world's healthcare community focus on prevention, wellness and the safety of patients and populations at large," Pelino continues. The partnership was up and running when the first outbreak of bird flu was detected. MECIDS enabled rapid communication and coordination to contain the spread of the disease. The partnership has continued to grow, despite political tensions. MECIDS members now exchange information mostly on paper, but by moving to a standards-based model of secure electronic exchange that integrates public health reporting with the creation of clinical records, members can share key data to monitor and respond to potential outbreaks. The collected data can easily feed into IBM's pandemic disease modeling system, which alows public health officials to visualize outbreak prevention strategies and perform forecast modeling. "The development of this project has solidified the overall partnership among the participating countries," said Dr. Adel Belbesi, MECIDS chairman. "It will greatly enhance our joint capabilities in countering infectious disease outbreaks, to the benefit of all our communities." SEEING EYE DOG Iowa State University veterinarians have performed America's first corneal implant procedure in an animal - a dog named Dixie - and restored her sight. The seven-year-old dog was operated on by Prof. Dr. Sinisa Grozdanic, who said: "We are excited for Dixie. She was our patient for such a long time and nothing really worked. She was gradually going down visually, and we were finally able to do something to definitely improve her quality of life," UPI reported. Grozdanic cut into Dixie's eye to remove the cloudy cornea and inserted a permanent plastic cornea. He then covered the eye, including the plastic cornea, with Dixie's own tissue to help it heal. After several weeks, Grozdanic removed the bandages and cut a hole into the tissue to expose the new, plastic cornea, developed by a German company called Acrivet. The veterinary surgeon said Dixie can see but has no peripheral vision, so her vision is like looking through a peephole. Her owner said: "She used to walk right behind me when we'd go for a walk. She couldn't see and was scared. Now she wants to run ahead."