Researchers turn to big data, social media to track Ebola

Using data analytics and social media tools, researchers at Florida Atlantic University (FAU) are mapping the spread of the Ebola virus.

Through a National Science Foundation Rapid Response Grant, members of the university's College of Engineering and Computer Science will use data collected through Twitter, Facebook and Google for its effort, according to an article at Infection Control Today. That information will then be used to model how Ebola is spreading by being entered into a decision support system.

The Ebola virus outbreak has killed about 11,000 people in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone.

Healthcare professionals have turned to health IT and mobile healthcare to assist in fighting the virus and helping those infected. One example is a program called STAMP2, being led by the Scripps Translational Science Institute and three partners. The consortium aims to improve health outcomes, reduce the risk of the virus from spreading and increase the safety of healthcare workers involved with Ebola patients.

"Tracking and containing this disease requires enormous resources," Borko Furht, a professor in the Department of Computer and Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at FAU and principal investigator of the grant, tells Infection Control Today. "Our system can be a proactive approach to reasonably reduce the risk of exposure of Ebola spread within a community or a geographic location."

The researchers also will use a data analysis platform to process the information. Once the data is collected, analyzed and fed through the support tool, it will be made into reports that can be delivered to government agencies.

Researchers also are creating a mobile platform to query the movement of people and possible contacts in areas impacted by the virus.

Another computer model surrounding Ebola was updated in January with the goal of forecasting overreactions to the outbreak. Big data was the main ingredient in the project, with researchers comparing data from hospitals, social media and news to data from hospital records about incidences of the disease, according to the article.

To learn more:
- read the article

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