Information and facts about contagious diseases are now made available to public.

A list of contagious diseases along with information and facts submitted weekly to the U.S. federal government since 1888 are now accessible to public through the Project Tycho of the University of Pittsburgh.

Dr. William G. van Panhuis, PhD., from the University of Pittsburgh in Pennsylvania, together with his colleagues developed the database that holds information of contagious diseases, which includes all the weekly surveillance reports from cities around U.S recorded between 1888 and 2011. The database also includes 87,950,807 cases, contained in space and time, and hauled out from roughly 6,500 tables.

According to the creators of this compilation, public access to this database and the quality of the health data are exceptional.

For this project, the researchers have studied the rates and patterns of eight diseases that can be prevented by vaccines – polio, diphtheria, pertussis, measles, mumps, rubella, hepatitis A and smallpox – before and after the development of the vaccines.

Regardless of continuous vaccination of the population, the study showed that there have been many reappearances of four contagious diseases – measles, mumps, rubella, and pertussis.

The results suggest that these outbreaks reveal spaces in herd immunity.

"Our analysis shows how high-resolution spatiotemporal data can be effectively used to illustrate these trends at the national and local levels and to inform public opinion about the necessity of vaccination programs. Detailed spatiotemporal public health data have too often remained inaccessible and therefore underutilized. Lack of access to historical epidemiologic data constrains the scientific understanding of the dynamics of disease transmission, hampers disease-control programs, and limits public health education programs," the authors wrote in their study.

As explained by Dr. Donald S. Burke, Dean of Public Health in the University of Pittsburgh and senior author of the article, to Medscape, "Historical records are a precious, yet undervalued, resource. As Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard said, we live forward but understand backward. By 'rescuing' these historical disease data and combining them into a single, open-access, computable system, we now can better understand the devastating impact of epidemic diseases, and the remarkable value of vaccines in preventing illness and death."

This report is published in the Nov. 28 issue of the Science New England Journal of Medicine.