Could social media become an essential tool in predicting and tracking health epidemics and outbreaks? A recent study from the University of Iowa, found Twitter provided a real-time view into the spread of H1N1, allowing researchers to accurately predict occurrences of the flu before cases were formally reported.
Twitter posts were cross checked against reports at the Center for Disease Control (CDC), revealing a correlation between CDC cases and certain phrases that would pop up related to fever temperature or doctor visits.
After analyzing 17 million mentions of illness in Facebook posts and tweets (separating “Bieber fever” from actual fever) and plotting genuine ailment mentions on a map, founder of Sickweather, Graham Dodge, has noticed trends in how disease spreads throughout the United States.
Everyday thousands of people around the globe update social media sites like Facebook and Twitter when they (or someone close to them) get sick. Posts like “I’m sick,” “the doc says I have bronchitis” and “My son has chickenpox.” When this information is made publicly available by the user and contains location information, Sickweather is able to track and map this data using their patent-pending algorithm. Alternatively, Sickweather allows its members to report directly to our map and forecast anonymously via the input field under “How Are You Feeling Today?”
Can social media networks track and predict disease? | VOXXIVOXXI