HHS looks to Twitter to track health trends

The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services this week announced a contest geared toward the creation of web-based applications that use Twitter to track real-time health trends. Nicole Lurie, assistant secretary for preparedness and response and a rear admiral in the U.S. Public Health Service, noted in a statement that the effort stems from hindsight of social media use during the 2009 H1N1 pandemic. "Based on that ... experience, local health officials asked for our help in developing a web-based tool that could make social media monitoring useful as part of the surveillance systems in place now to identify new diseases early." A study published earlier this year in the American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene found that a look back at Twitter posts stemming from Haiti in late 2010 forecasted an outbreak of cholera. Announcement

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