Can twitter predict food –related outbreaks?

  • Sickweather is the first company to attempt to predict outbreaks by tracking symptom and disease mentions on twitter.
  • Previous efforts have tracked Google search terms, emergency room visits, and over the counter medication sales to track disease. However, the company founder believes that due to the personal and real-time data offered by twitter, analysts can see trends emerge much quicker and more accurately. For example, analysts can check whether the person tweeting is affected or not e.g. “I have the flu” as opposed to “I went to a talk about flu”.
  • Currently tracking 24 symptoms, there is still room for the tool to expand the range of outbreaks it can monitor, and develop increasingly accurate reporting for Government.

For health services, the technology may help to anticipate demand for medication and health services. It may also serve as a tool to identify emerging outbreaks (e.g. food-borne illnesses) and to pinpoint the location of the outbreak using the same twitter tools.

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About Hayley Shaw

Knowledge Exchange Manager at Cranfield University's Centre for Environmental Risks and Futures (CERF). Sharing the latest news from Cranfield, and insights from across the industry. All things risk, environment, and the future.
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