, Volume 40, Issue 3-4, pp 405-413

A multilingual ontology for infectious disease surveillance: rationale, design and challenges

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Abstract

A lack of surveillance system infrastructure in the Asia-Pacific region is seen as hindering the global control of rapidly spreading infectious diseases such as the recent avian H5N1 epidemic. As part of improving surveillance in the region, the BioCaster project aims to develop a system based on text mining for automatically monitoring Internet news and other online sources in several regional languages. At the heart of the system is an application ontology which serves the dual purpose of enabling advanced searches on the mined facts and of allowing the system to make intelligent inferences for assessing the priority of events. However, it became clear early on in the project that existing classification schemes did not have the necessary language coverage or semantic specificity for our needs. In this article we present an overview of our needs and explore in detail the rationale and methods for developing a new conceptual structure and multilingual terminological resource that focusses on priority pathogens and the diseases they cause. The ontology is made freely available as an online database and downloadable OWL file.