If you’ve posted on either Facebook or Twitter about having the flu; you’re not alone. Since early December, there have been 626,379 mentions of flu on those two platforms, according to sentiment analysis firm Crimson Hexagon. It’s noted that 40% of the posts included the phrase “I have the flu.” That percentage extrapolated to more than 250,000 Twitter or Facebook users with the dreaded virus.
We all catch the flu at one point or another, and as easy as we know it is to treat. It’s not to be taken so lightly.The flu claims 250,000 to 500,000 lives per year and comes out affecting workplace productivity about $87 billion in the U.S. alone. Yikes!
Twitter alone has around 200 million users, it’s a pretty good sample of the world’s population and, thanks to the use of geo-locations tags, researchers are able to trace outbreaks based on tweets using the flu dectector to trace keywords in tweets. Health officials are turning to computer coders to chase the flu in real time. Google Flu Trends (GOOG) got major cool points when it accurately reported the severity of the 2009 flu season nearly two weeks before the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
This is all excellent news to health providers who are willing to use social media as another tool to help them access patients and catch a surge in their region of the country.
There’s actually several tracking tools that people are already using/following to speed up information flows in the flu fight. Here’s a few that stood out to us at WeShareMedia:
Google Flu Trends: Launched in November 2008 by Google.org, Google Flu Trends provides “near real-time estimates” of flu activity for 29 countries on the national and regional level. Google Flu Trends searches flu-related data, comparing it to a historic baseline level of flu activity data provided by national centers for disease control. It maps the two sets of data, labeling regions minimal, low, moderate, high, or intense.
Flu Near You: A team from Boston’s Children Hospital developed, Flu Near You, in partnership with the American Public Health Association and the Skoll Global Threats Fund. Over 44,000 registered users agreed to complete weekly surveys about their health condition to build a database for health-care officials accurately track regional flu outbreaks before, during, and after they hit.
DIZIE: Developed by Nigel Collier, a computational linguist at the National Institute of Informatics in Tokyo, DIZIE taps into Twitter API data to analyze and chart tweets from people describing their illnesses. DIZIE uses a global map, zeroing in on tweets from users in 43 cities around the world.
All of us at WeShareMedia are proud of our forefront stand on social media and see it as the future of not only marketing, but the positive side effects of all this data collection, that’s now saving lives by keeping us informed of diseases spreading to our region of this great country.