Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Disease outbreaks trackable with Twitter, study says

23.01.2013
This flu season you’ve probably seen a number of friends on social media talking about symptoms.
New research from Brigham Young University says such posts on Twitter could actually be helpful to health officials looking for a head start on outbreaks.

The study sampled 24 million tweets from 10 million unique users. They determined that accurate location information is available for about 15 percent of tweets (gathered from user profiles and tweets that contain GPS data). That’s likely a critical mass for an early-warning system that could monitor terms like “fever,” “flu” and “coughing” in a city or state.

“One of the things this paper shows is that the distribution of tweets is about the same as the distribution of the population so we get a good representation of the country,” said BYU professor Christophe Giraud-Carrier. “That’s another nice validity point especially if you’re going to look at things like diseases spreading.”

Professor Giraud-Carrier (@ChristopheGC) and his computer science students at BYU report their findings in a recent issue of the Journal of Medical Internet Research.

The researchers found surprisingly less data than they expected from Twitter’s feature that enables tweets to be tagged with a location. They found that just 2 percent of tweets contained the GPS info. That’s a much lower rate than what Twitter users report in surveys.

“There is this disconnect that’s well known between what you think you are doing and what you are actually doing,” Giraud-Carrier said.

Location info can more often be found and parsed from user profiles. Of course some people use that location field for a joke, i.e. “Somewhere in my imagination” or “a cube world in Minecraft.” However, the researchers confirmed that this user-supplied data was accurate 88 percent of the time. Besides the jokes, a portion of the inaccuracies arise from people tweeting while they travel.

The net result is that public health officials could capture state-level info or better for 15 percent of tweets. That bodes well for the viability of a Twitter-based disease monitoring system to augment the confirmed data from sentinel clinics.

“The first step is to look for posts about symptoms tied to actual location indicators and start to plot points on a map,” said Scott Burton, a graduate student and lead author of the study. “You could also look to see if people are talking about actual diagnoses versus self-reported symptoms, such as ‘The doctor says I have the flu.’”

The computer scientists collaborated with two BYU health science professors on the project. Professor Josh West says speed is the main advantage Twitter gives to health officials.

“If people from a particular area are reporting similar symptoms on Twitter, public health officials could put out a warning to providers to gear up for something,” West said. “Under conditions like that, it could be very useful.”

BYU undergraduate Kesler Tanner is a co-author on the study. He wrote the code to obtain the data from Twitter. When he graduates in April, he’ll be headed off to graduate school to earn a Ph.D.

Earlier this year, this same group of researchers published a study showing that most exercise apps are based on bad info.

Follow @BYU on Twitter.

Joe Hadfield | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.byu.edu

More articles from Communications Media:

nachricht New Technologies for A/V Analysis and Search
13.04.2017 | Fraunhofer-Institut für Digitale Medientechnologie IDMT

nachricht On patrol in social networks
25.01.2017 | Fraunhofer-Institut für Arbeitswirtschaft und Organisation IAO

All articles from Communications Media >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Making lightweight construction suitable for series production

More and more automobile companies are focusing on body parts made of carbon fiber reinforced plastics (CFRP). However, manufacturing and repair costs must be further reduced in order to make CFRP more economical in use. Together with the Volkswagen AG and five other partners in the project HolQueSt 3D, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) has developed laser processes for the automatic trimming, drilling and repair of three-dimensional components.

Automated manufacturing processes are the basis for ultimately establishing the series production of CFRP components. In the project HolQueSt 3D, the LZH has...

Im Focus: Wonder material? Novel nanotube structure strengthens thin films for flexible electronics

Reflecting the structure of composites found in nature and the ancient world, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have synthesized thin carbon nanotube (CNT) textiles that exhibit both high electrical conductivity and a level of toughness that is about fifty times higher than copper films, currently used in electronics.

"The structural robustness of thin metal films has significant importance for the reliable operation of smart skin and flexible electronics including...

Im Focus: Deep inside Galaxy M87

The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.

Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...

Im Focus: A Quantum Low Pass for Photons

Physicists in Garching observe novel quantum effect that limits the number of emitted photons.

The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...

Im Focus: Microprocessors based on a layer of just three atoms

Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.

Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Expert meeting “Health Business Connect” will connect international medical technology companies

20.04.2017 | Event News

Wenn der Computer das Gehirn austrickst

18.04.2017 | Event News

7th International Conference on Crystalline Silicon Photovoltaics in Freiburg on April 3-5, 2017

03.04.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Bare bones: Making bones transparent

27.04.2017 | Life Sciences

Study offers new theoretical approach to describing non-equilibrium phase transitions

27.04.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

From volcano's slope, NASA instrument looks sky high and to the future

27.04.2017 | Earth Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>