According to a new study by the researchers of Brigham Young University, tweets about health problems like flu and other diseases can be helpful for tracking an outbreak of a disease. Thus, Twitter users who discuss the kind of health problems they are facing due to certain weather conditions or because of a virus that might be causing them, is essential for data gathering to health experts.
Health officials can detect trends and proceed to provide further strategy for controlling them. The accuracy of such a data from tweets is around 15% as only those tweets can be considered which have GPS data. The researchers studied around 24 million tweets from 10 million unique users and arrived at their findings. Those tweets about health problems where a user self-medicates or self-diagnose a condition cannot be considered because they have not been confirmed by a health professional.
However, those tweets where a user says that he or she has been told by the doctor that he or she is suffering from this or that, can be considered for data monitoring. Around 250,000 social media users in the U.S. said recently said that they are suffering from flu, which indicated an outbreak of it in particular areas in the U.S.
Twitter is being used by such countries as Brazil to locate the outbreak of dengue fever with real-time surveillance of such data coming from different cities and analyse it by comparing it to Global Public Health Intelligence Network and other news sources. Even in Pakistan, Dr. Umar Saif has suggested the use of social media in tracking down outbreak of diseases and he has been using such method to monitor dengue fever outbreak in the Punjab.