Social media can track disease spread even in poorest countries
Twitter, blogs and other social media can be powerful tools for tracking infectious diseases as they spread in poor countries with weak institutions and infrastructure conclude researchers who followed social media during Haiti’s post-earthquake cholera outbreak in 2010.
Twitter posts and news about cholera gathered from the Internet in the first 100 days of the outbreak tracked closely with official data reported from hospital and clinics. But the social media data were available almost instantly, instead of days to weeks after the fact. Mining such informal news sources could allow for speedier interventions with vaccines or antibiotics, the researchers report in the January issue of the American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene.
“There’s very useful information in some of these nontraditional sources,” says Philip Polgreen, an expert in bioinformatics and epidemiology at the University of Iowa, who was not involved with t