How Twitter can help track the spread of influenza

Social media outlets, such as Twitter, could play a role in helping health officials track an outbreak or spread of the flu, according to a study published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research. Researchers, led by Anna C. Nagel, of the graduate school of public health, San Diego State University, analyzed the interaction between cyberspace messages, keyword-specific tweets, and real-time occurrences of influenza and pertussis. Original tweets and those without a URL web address were better indicators of an occurrence than retweets. The study showed that keyword choice plays an important role in how well tweets link with incidents of disease. Nagel and her team said more research is needed, but the study shows that tweets could potentially detect a disease outbreak earlier than traditional methods and at a lower cost, allowing the healthcare industry to better prepare for and prevent disease. Study

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