Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Could social media be used to detect disease outbreaks?

Date:
November 1, 2011
Source:
University of Bristol
Summary:
New research has looked at whether social media could be used to track an event or phenomenon, such as flu outbreaks and rainfall rates.

New research has looked at whether social media could be used to track an event or phenomenon, such as flu outbreaks and rainfall rates. The study by academics at the University of Bristol's Intelligent Systems Laboratory is published online in ACM Transactions on Intelligent Systems and Technology.

Related Articles


Social networks, such as Facebook and microblogging services like Twitter, have only been around for a short time but in that time they have provided shapshots of real life by forming, electronically, public expression and interaction.

The research by Professor Nello Cristianini and Vasileios Lampos in the University's Intelligent Systems Laboratory, geo-tagged user posts on the microblogging service of Twitter as their input data to investigate two case studies.

The first case study looked at levels of rainfall in a given location and time using the content of tweets. The second case study collected regional flu-like illness rates from tweets to find out if an epidemic was emerging.

The study builds on previous research that reported a methodology that used tweets to track flu-like illness rates in several UK regions. The research also demonstrated a tool, the Flu Detector, which uses the content of Twitter to map current flu rates in several UK regions.

Professor Nello Cristianini, speaking about the research, said: "Twitter, in particular, encouraged their 200 million users worldwide to make their posts, commonly known as tweets, publicly available as well as tagged with the user's location. This has led to a new wave of experimentation and research using an independent stream of information.

"Our research has demonstrated a method, by using the content of Twitter, to track an event, when it occurs and the scale of it. We were able to turn geo-tagged user posts on the microblogging service of Twitter to topic-specific geolocated signals by selecting textual features that showed the content and understanding of the text."

Over several months, the researchers were able to gather a database of over 50 million geo-located tweets, which could then be compared to official data from the UK's National Health Service on flu incidence by region.

The researchers deployed state-of-the art machine learning algorithms that automatically figured out which keywords in the database of tweets were associated with elevated levels of flu. In this way they were able to create a predictive model that transformed keyword incidence in tweets into an estimate of the severity of flu in that area.

While it is true that Twitter users do not represent the general population, this study indicates that Twitter can be used to track an event.

Future work could be focused on improving various subtasks in the methodology, enabling researchers to become ever more expert at pinpointing situations, such as a flu outbreak or electoral voting intentions.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Bristol. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Lampos, V & Cristianini, N. Nowcasting Events from the Social Web with Statistical Learning. ACM Transactions on Intelligent Systems and Technology, 2011

Cite This Page:

University of Bristol. "Could social media be used to detect disease outbreaks?." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 1 November 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/11/111101125812.htm>.
University of Bristol. (2011, November 1). Could social media be used to detect disease outbreaks?. ScienceDaily. Retrieved January 29, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/11/111101125812.htm
University of Bristol. "Could social media be used to detect disease outbreaks?." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/11/111101125812.htm (accessed January 29, 2015).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Health & Medicine News

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Malnutrition on the Rise as Violence Flares in C. Africa

Malnutrition on the Rise as Violence Flares in C. Africa

AFP (Jan. 28, 2015) Violence can flare up at any moment in Bambari with only a bridge separating Muslims and Christians. Malnutrition is on the rise and lack of water means simple cooking fires threaten to destroy makeshift camps where people are living. Duration: 00:40 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Poultry Culled in Taiwan to Thwart Bird Flu

Poultry Culled in Taiwan to Thwart Bird Flu

Reuters - News Video Online (Jan. 28, 2015) Taiwan culls over a million poultry in efforts to halt various strains of avian flu. Julie Noce reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Media Criticizing Parents For Not Vaccinating Children

Media Criticizing Parents For Not Vaccinating Children

Newsy (Jan. 28, 2015) As the Disneyland measles outbreak continues to spread, the media says parents who choose not to vaccinate their children are part of the cause. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Shark Bite Victim Making Amazing Recovery

Shark Bite Victim Making Amazing Recovery

AP (Jan. 27, 2015) A Texas woman who lost more than five pounds of flesh to a shark in the Bahamas earlier this month could be released from a Florida hospital soon. Experts believe she was bitten by a bull shark while snorkeling. (Jan. 27) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins