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This article is part of the supplement: Proceedings of the Second International Symposium on Languages in Biology and Medicine (LBM) 2007

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Structuring an event ontology for disease outbreak detection

Ai Kawazoe1*, Hutchatai Chanlekha1, Mika Shigematsu2 and Nigel Collier1*

Author Affiliations

1 National Institute of Informatics, 2-1-2 Hitotsubashi, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo, 101-8430, Japan

2 National Institute of Infectious Diseases, 1-23-1 Toyama, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo, 162-8640, Japan

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BMC Bioinformatics 2008, 9(Suppl 3):S8  doi:10.1186/1471-2105-9-S3-S8

Published: 11 April 2008



This paper describes the design of an event ontology being developed for application in the machine understanding of infectious disease-related events reported in natural language text. This event ontology is designed to support timely detection of disease outbreaks and rapid judgment of their alerting status by 1) bridging a gap between layman's language used in disease outbreak reports and public health experts' deep knowledge, and 2) making multi-lingual information available.

Construction and content

This event ontology integrates a model of experts' knowledge for disease surveillance, and at the same time sets of linguistic expressions which denote disease-related events, and formal definitions of events. In this ontology, rather general event classes, which are suitable for application to language-oriented tasks such as recognition of event expressions, are placed on the upper-level, and more specific events of the experts' interest are in the lower level. Each class is related to other classes which represent participants of events, and linked with multi-lingual synonym sets and axioms.


We consider that the design of the event ontology and the methodology introduced in this paper are applicable to other domains which require integration of natural language information and machine support for experts to assess them. The first version of the ontology, with about 40 concepts, will be available in March 2008.