Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Hashtag health

Date:
November 19, 2013
Source:
San Diego State University
Summary:
A social media–monitoring program could help physicians and health officials learn when and where severe outbreaks are occurring in real time. The researchers demonstrated that this technique might allow officials to more quickly and efficiently direct resources to outbreak zones and better contain the spread of the disease.

SDSU geography professor Ming-Hsiang Tsou follows disease-related keywords on Twitter in order to identify outbreaks of influenza.
Credit: Whitney Mullen, SDSU

A social media-monitoring program led by San Diego State University geography professor Ming-Hsiang Tsou could help physicians and health officials learn when and where severe outbreaks are occurring in real time. In results published last month in the Journal of Medical Internet Research, Tsou demonstrated that his technique might allow officials to more quickly and efficiently direct resources to outbreak zones and better contain the spread of the disease.

"There is the potential to use social media to really improve the way we monitor the flu and other public health concerns,"Tsou said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) defines flu season as the period from October through May, usually peaking around February. But the unpredictability in exactly when and where outbreaks occur makes it difficult for hospitals and regional health agencies to prepare for where and when to deploy physicians and nurses armed with vaccines and medicines.

There's about a two-week lag in the time between hospitals first noticing an uptick in flu patients and the CDC issuing a regional warning. Tsou and his colleagues, funded by a $1.3 million grant from the National Science Foundation, wanted to find a quicker, more efficient way to identify these patterns.

They selected 11 U.S. cities and monitored tweets originating from within a 17-mile radius of those cities. Whenever people tweeted the keywords "flu" or "influenza," the program would record characteristics about those tweets, including username, location, whether they were original tweets or retweets, and whether they linked to a Web site.

From June 2012 to the beginning of December, the algorithm recorded 161,821 tweets containing the word "flu," 6,174 containing "influenza."

Tsou compared his team's findings to regional data based on the CDC's definition of influenza-like illnesses (ILI). Nine of the 11 cities showed a statistically significant correlation between an increase in the number of tweets mentioning those keywords and regionally reported outbreaks. In five of those cities, Tsou's algorithm picked up on the outbreaks earlier than the regional reports. The cities with the strongest correlations were San Diego, Denver, Jacksonville, Seattle and Fort Worth.

"Traditional procedures take at least two weeks to detect an outbreak," Tsou said. "With our method, we're detecting daily."

Original tweets and tweets without Web site links also proved more predictive than retweets or those that did include links, possibly because original and non-linking tweets are more likely to reflect individuals posting about their own symptoms, Tsou said.

The next step in Tsou's ongoing research will be hunting for even finer-grained correlations between ILI data and specific symptomatic keywords like "cough," "sneeze," "congestion," and "sore throat."

Tsou envisions this kind of "infoveillance" applying to a range of public health, such as monitoring regional incidents of heart attack or diabetes. The project is connected to a larger SDSU initiative, Human Dynamics in the Mobile Age, one of the university's four recently selected Areas of Excellence. Tsou is a core faculty member for the initiative.

"In social media, there's a lot of noise in the data," Tsou said. "But if we can filter that noise out and focus on what's relevant, we can find all kinds of useful connections between real life and cyberspace."


Story Source:

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


Journal Reference:

  1. Anna C Nagel, Ming-Hsiang Tsou, Brian H Spitzberg, Li An, J Mark Gawron, Dipak K Gupta, Jiue-An Yang, Su Han, K Michael Peddecord, Suzanne Lindsay, Mark H Sawyer. The Complex Relationship of Realspace Events and Messages in Cyberspace: Case Study of Influenza and Pertussis Using Tweets. Journal of Medical Internet Research, 2013; 15 (10): e237 DOI: 10.2196/jmir.2705

Cite This Page:

San Diego State University. "Hashtag health." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 19 November 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/11/131119093337.htm>.
San Diego State University. (2013, November 19). Hashtag health. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 18, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/11/131119093337.htm
San Diego State University. "Hashtag health." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/11/131119093337.htm (accessed April 18, 2014).

Share This



More Science & Society News

Friday, April 18, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Small Reactors Could Be Future of Nuclear Energy

Small Reactors Could Be Future of Nuclear Energy

AP (Apr. 17, 2014) After the Fukushima nuclear disaster, the industry fell under intense scrutiny. Now, small underground nuclear power plants are being considered as the possible future of the nuclear energy. (April 17) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Heartbleed Hack Leads To Arrest

Heartbleed Hack Leads To Arrest

Newsy (Apr. 17, 2014) A 19-year-old computer science student has been arrested in relation to a data breach of 900 social insurance numbers from Canada's revenue agency. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Obama: 8 Million Healthcare Signups

Obama: 8 Million Healthcare Signups

AP (Apr. 17, 2014) President Barack Obama gave a briefing Thursday announcing 8 million people have signed up under the Affordable Care Act. He blasted continued Republican efforts to repeal the law. (April 17) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Yahoo's Ousted COO Gets $58M Severance Package

Yahoo's Ousted COO Gets $58M Severance Package

Newsy (Apr. 17, 2014) According to SEC filings, Yahoo gave ousted COO Henrique de Castro a $58 million severance package. 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