An interactive map detailing the history of the world’s Ebola outbreaks – including the ongoing crises in West Africa – has been released by mapping giant Esri.

The Ebola Outbreaks map can be embedded into news websites to illustrate to readers the relative severity of each outbreak.

Users can explore the first known instance of the disease in the Democratic Republic of Congo in 1976 and every subsequent outbreak.

Statistics – such as the strain and fatality rate – relating to each outbreak are accessed by clicking on the map and its accompanying timeline.

Esri is also working with the US Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to develop maps to help predict disease spread and population movement in West Africa’s affected areas.

Esri Australia Communications Manager Alicia Kouparitsas said the project involved collating anonymous mobile phone data to determine how many calls are being made to Ebola helplines and hospitals.

“Mobiles are used extensively even in Africa’s most impoverished nations,” Ms Kouparitsas said.

“CDC is working with local telephone companies to assess how many calls are being made from particular cell towers to helplines.

“Esri is helping map this data over demographic and geographical information to build up a richer picture of the situation at hand.

“Spikes in calls from particular towers can indicate a potential outbreak in that vicinity and this information allows CDC to effectively and efficiently direct resources.”

Ms Kouparitsas said the approach was unprecedented.

“The outbreaks are occurring in regions where reliable information is scarce,” she said.

“In the past, emergency intelligence during crises such as the Ebola outbreaks has been typically sourced from word of mouth accounts, such as reports from security and medical centres.

“This information is valuable, but by using smart mapping technology we can bring together more disparate data sources – even social media and transportation records – and mine them to find patterns that would otherwise be missed.”

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