BYU Study Says Disease Outbreaks Can Be Tracked via Twitter
January 23, 2013 8:52 AM
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Sick people tweeting symptoms may be useful after all
Brigham Young University has completed a study suggesting that disease outbreaks can be tracked via Twitter. The study found that posts on Twitter could be helpful to health officials looking to get a head start on outbreak locations. For the study, the University sampled 24 million tweets from 10 million unique users.
The study was able to determine accurate location information for roughly 15% of tweets gathered from user profiles and tweets that contain GPS information. The researchers believe that health officials could use an early warning system that monitors for terms like fever, flu, and coughing in a particular city or state.
The researchers found that location information in user profiles is accurate 88% of the time. All of this information means that public health officials would be able to capture state level info or better for 15% of tweets posted.
“The first step is to look for posts about symptoms tied to actual location indicators and start to plot points on a map,” said Scott Burton, a graduate student and lead author of the study. “You could also look to see if people are talking about actual diagnoses versus self-reported symptoms, such as ‘The doctor says I have the flu.’”
Professor Giraud-Carrier and a group of his computer science students conducted the study. The results were reported in a recent issue of the Journal of Medical Internet Research.
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RE: The contrasting technologies.
1/24/2013 4:55:54 PM
The difficulty in tracking diseases is getting accurate and current information. The average person is not going to send a fax to the CDC (Center for Disease Control) indicating they feel yucky and will not be going to work today, but many tweeters will.
The study shows that reasonably accurate data about the spread of diseases can be gained through monitoring Twitter.
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