Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Researchers explore social media as preventative method for infectious diseases

Date:
November 27, 2012
Source:
Kansas State University
Summary:
When it comes to stopping illness, social media posts and tweets may be just what the doctor ordered. A research team is looking at social media as a tool to reduce and prevent diseases from spreading. Researchers are studying whether a well-timed post from a public authority or trustworthy person could be as beneficial as flu shots, hand-washing or sneezing into an elbow.

When it comes to stopping illness, social media posts and tweets may be just what the doctor ordered.

A Kansas State University-led research team is looking at social media as a tool to reduce and prevent diseases from spreading. Researchers are studying whether a well-timed post from a public authority or trustworthy person could be as beneficial as flu shots, hand-washing or sneezing into an elbow.

"Infectious diseases are a serious problem and historically have been a major cause of death," said Faryad Sahneh, Kansas State University doctoral candidate in electrical engineering who is modeling the spread of epidemics in an effort to reduce them. "During the last decades there has been a huge advancement in medication and vaccination, which has helped save many peoples' lives. But now there also has been a revolution in communication and information technology that we think could be used to develop an even more robust preventative society against infectious diseases."

Sahneh is working on the project with Kansas State University researchers Caterina Scoglio, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering and expert in complex network modeling; Gary Brase, associate professor of psychology who studies how people make decisions; and Walter Schumm, professor of family studies and human services who studies family dynamics.

Collaborators also include Daniel J. Kruger, a public health scientist at the University of Michigan's School of Public Health; Fahmida N. Chowdhury, an expert in dynamical systems theory and control at the National Science Foundation; and Michael L. Parchman, director of the MacColl Center for Health Care Innovation.

According to Scoglio, having research collaborators from a wide range of relevant disciplines helps the team develop more comprehensive and accurate models that account for realistic human behavior.

Brase, for example, is collecting data by surveying college-age students about social media and what preventative measures they use against illness.

Results indicate that a majority of participants get their information predominately from Facebook and a few other social media sites. Moreover, the majority of participants stated they would be willing to increase preventative behaviors such as washing their hands more, taking vitamins or getting a flu shot if asked to do so.

"However, we also saw that restricting contact with family and friends is something that people are not willing to do," Brase said. "If you think about how diseases are spread, one of the best things you can do is to not interact with other people. But we've seen that this is one thing that people are not very excited about doing."

As well as gathering information about human behavior, the team is identifying the various groups that need to be reached with social media.

One critical group is individuals such as teachers or public officials who regularly interact with a large number of the public, Scoglio said. If exposed to a disease, these individuals can potentially infect everyone they interact with throughout the day. Reaching that group, though, could help suppress the disease spreading.

"If 30 people in that group get a flu vaccine, they will have less probability of getting the flu," Sahneh said. "But, by being vaccinated, it's also benefiting all who come into contact with those 30 people because there is now a reduced chance of the flu being transmitted by those 30 individuals. So reaching that group is pretty important."

Researchers are also exploring who is the most effective or influential at distributing information through social media.

"One thing we're discussing is whether it would be better to receive recommendations or advice from someone people know and trust personally, like a friend or the university president, or from someone like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which is an authority on the subject but has no personal connection to most people," Scoglio said. "It may be something where a best friend has more influence than a public health official."

The team's first study, "On the existence of a threshold for preventative behavioral responses to contain epidemic spreading," was recently published in the open-source Scientific Reports journal. Sahneh was the lead author. The study found that if individuals quickly adopt the appropriate preventative behavior, a growing infection can be contained.

In December, Sahneh is presenting new findings on an optimal dissemination network of health information to the scientific community at the 51st IEEE Conference on Decision and Control. Results suggest that not only vaccinating critical individuals, but also facilitating the circulation of health information to and from those critical individuals greatly helps in suppressing infectious diseases.


Story Source:

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


Journal Reference:

  1. Faryad Darabi Sahneh, Fahmida N. Chowdhury, Caterina M. Scoglio. On the existence of a threshold for preventive behavioral responses to suppress epidemic spreading. Scientific Reports, 2012; 2 DOI: 10.1038/srep00632

Cite This Page:

Kansas State University. "Researchers explore social media as preventative method for infectious diseases." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 27 November 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/11/121127111348.htm>.
Kansas State University. (2012, November 27). Researchers explore social media as preventative method for infectious diseases. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 23, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/11/121127111348.htm
Kansas State University. "Researchers explore social media as preventative method for infectious diseases." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/11/121127111348.htm (accessed April 23, 2014).

Share This



More Health & Medicine News

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Big Pharma Braces for M&A Wave

Big Pharma Braces for M&A Wave

Reuters - Business Video Online (Apr. 22, 2014) Big pharma on the move as Novartis boss, Joe Jimenez, tells Reuters about plans to transform his company via an asset exchange with GSK, and Astra Zeneca shares surge on speculation that Pfizer is looking for a takeover. Joanna Partridge reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Study Says Most Crime Not Linked To Mental Illness

Study Says Most Crime Not Linked To Mental Illness

Newsy (Apr. 22, 2014) A new study finds most crimes committed by people with mental illness are not caused by symptoms of their illness or disorder. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Hagel Gets Preview of New High-Tech Projects

Hagel Gets Preview of New High-Tech Projects

AP (Apr. 22, 2014) Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is given hands-on demonstrations Tuesday of some of the newest research from DARPA _ the military's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency program. (April 22) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
How Smaller Plates And Cutlery Could Make You Feel Fuller

How Smaller Plates And Cutlery Could Make You Feel Fuller

Newsy (Apr. 22, 2014) NBC's "Today" conducted an experiment to see if changing the size of plates and utensils affects the amount individuals eat. Video provided by Newsy
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:
from the past week

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