EHA Announces Development of Global Disease Warning Software

NEW YORK – May 28, 2015

EcoHealth Alliance and its Partners Create Biosurveillance Application

EcoHealth Alliance, a nonprofit organization that focuses on local conservation and global health issues, announced the award of a $2.2 million grant from the Defense Threat Reduction Agency to continue the development of disease warning software designed to monitor early-warning signals from possible emerging infectious disease outbreaks. The Global Rapid Identification Tool System (GRITS) is the name of the software being developed in partnership with ProMED, the International Society for Infectious Disease, and Kitware.  GRITS is a biosurveillance application that enables infectious disease analysts to monitor textual data sources for infectious disease threats in near real time.  Environmental changes to the global landscape increases the risk of  disease emergence.  Climate change, deforestation, expansive agricultural practices, and urbanization are all potential factors that contribute to the risk of diseases like Ebola, MERS, and other zoonotic pathogens. “GRITS is an open source technology that is going to change how ‘One Health’ disease surveillance is conducted into the foreseeable future,” said Dr. Andrew Huff, Senior Research Scientist at EcoHealth Alliance.

GRITS analyzes textual data sources by identifying, extracting and succinctly visualizing critical public health information and suggesting possible associated infectious diseases using natural language processing and key words.  With the multitude of news, social media, and academic channels of communication it is increasingly difficult to monitor possible disease threats through traditional means. This is why a specialized disease warning software is so necessary. GRITS enables infectious disease analysts to examine dynamic visualizations of historical disease emergence events and patterns that could point to new disease outbreaks.

The GRITS API can be used to continuously analyze information feeds and large collections of data and enables GRITS technology to be easily incorporated into larger surveillance systems.  GRITS is a flexible and pluripotent tool that contains robust Natural Language Processing (NLP) and machine learning algorithms that can be modified to conduct sophisticated report triaging, expanded to include customized alert systems, or tailored to address other biosurveillance needs.  In conjunction with human expertise, this disease warning software is a valuable tool for infectious disease surveillance.


About EcoHealth Alliance

Building on over 40 years of groundbreaking science, EcoHealth Alliance is a global, nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting wildlife and safeguarding human health from the emergence of disease. The organization develops ways to combat the effects of damaged ecosystems on human and wildlife health.  Using environmental and health data covering the past 60 years, EcoHealth Alliance scientists created the first-ever, global disease hotspots map that identified at-risk regions, to help predict and prevent the next pandemic crisis. That work is the foundation of EcoHealth Alliance’s rigorous, science-based approach, focused at the intersection of the environment, health, and capacity building.  Working in the U.S. and more than 20 countries worldwide, EcoHealth Alliance’s strength is founded on innovations in research, training, global partnerships, and policy initiatives.  For more information, please visit  Twitter: @EcoHealthNYC

Press Contact: Anthony M. Ramos,, 212.380.4469