The tweet that flu: tracking your cold via social media!

We all get it. We all love the soup that comes with it. Yes I am talking about that illness that you love to call the office sick with… flu! Apparently governments and universities love to track it as well.

Tracking influenza is not a new phenomenon. The CDC in the US has been doing it for years now. However as this is still done via a traditional (replace with ‘slow’) public health system the numbers can take time to come. There is also the issue of tracking the exact location of the bug to mobilze staff armed with vaccines! One university faculty member is trying to change that in the coolest way possible.

A Geography Professor Ming-Hsiang Tsou of San Diego State University is trying to help physicians and health officials learn when and where severe outbreaks are occurring in real time using Twitter.

Using an algorithm, the tracking system system caught 161,821 tweets containing the word “flu,” 6,174 containing “influenza”. Not only did they correlate with the CDC’s own chart it also did it in a timely fashion. “Traditional procedures take at least two weeks to detect an outbreak,” Tsou says. “With our method, we’re detecting daily.”

Could this be used in Sri Lanka? Do we have enough users? Questions to answer for the future.

Source: San Diego State University

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