Researchers at the University of Iowa can track viral diseases like the flu, by using Twitter’s contextual information. Computational Epidemiology uses real tweets and correlates them to reported incidents at the Centers for Disease Control for extremely reliable flu predictions for various geographical areas.
“Tweets” are the short messages that users of Twitter share with friends and the general public. In April 2009, the authors of this study began collecting and storing public tweets related to H1N1, or swine flu. The tweets matched a set of general keywords (e.g., flu, swine, tamiflu); additional keywords located tweets that mentioned travel and hygiene. Then, in October 2009, based on discussions with public health officials, the authors expanded their search terms to follow concerns about vaccines.
During the study, a digital map of the U.S. continuously displayed the time and location of the most recent 500 tweets. By passing their computer cursor over tweet, viewers of the map could instantly read messages related to H1N1.
Those with a Facebook account can use Help Remedies’ Facebook app to identify which friend got you sick, though those predictions are probably not as accurate, if not more fun and social. Soon, Twitter and Facebook will know that you are sick before you can even feel the symptoms. VIA