Sunday, October 16, 2011

Twitter as an Epidemiological Tool

For some of us in Humans and Viruses, class tweets may be our first exposure to Twitter. This online social networking and microblogging service site might bring to mind 14-year-olds expressing complaints mid-adolescent crises, but could Twitter may turn out to be the great tool for tracking epidemics and how people respond to them?

This week, NPR posted an article about a group of scientist doing just that. Using Twitter data they are comparing vaccine estimates published by the CDC to look at patterns between perception of vaccines and whether or not people are getting sick. In fact there is an increasing number of scientists using twitter information in research.

According to the article, the use of twitter is particularly interesting because "You can observe how people feel about certain things in a real-world context". It is a huge amount of data and one challenge is to sort out the misinformation and false alarms and bias from the good information. The scientists using it feel that it is a helpful tool in their work.

Elena Jordan

The article can be found at:

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