U.S. researchers tracking flu through Twitter

NEW YORK Fri Jan 25, 2013 4:51am IST

A Twitter page is displayed on an Apple iPhone in Los Angeles October 13, 2009. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni

A Twitter page is displayed on an Apple iPhone in Los Angeles October 13, 2009.

Credit: Reuters/Mario Anzuoni

Related Topics

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Researchers and computer scientists at Johns Hopkins University have devised a way to track cases of influenza across the United States using the microblogging site Twitter.

Twitter is full of tweets about the flu, which has been severe and reached epidemic proportions this year, but it has been difficult to separate tweets about the flu from actual cases.

"We wanted to separate hype about the flu from messages from people who truly become ill," said Mark Dredze, an assistant research professor in Johns Hopkins' department of computer science, who monitors public health trends by looking at tweets.

To solve the problem, Dredze and his colleagues developed a screening method based on human language-processing technologies that only delivers real-time information on actual flu cases and filters out the rest of the chatter on the public tweets in the United States.

The researchers at the Baltimore university tested the system by comparing their results with data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"In late December," Dredze said on Thursday, "the news media picked up on the flu epidemic, causing a somewhat spurious rise in the rate produced by our Twitter system. But our new algorithm handles this effect much better than other systems, ignoring the spurious spike in tweets."

The scientists, whose research was funded partly by the National Institutes of Health's Models of Infectious Disease Agent Study, have also produced maps of the United States that show the impact of the flu on each state.

Dredze said he hoped the system could be used to track the other illnesses.

(Reporting by Patricia Reaney,; Editing by Jill Serjeant and Peter Cooney)

FILED UNDER:
Photo

After wave of QE, onus shifts to leaders to boost economy

DAVOS, Switzerland - Central banks have done their best to rescue the world economy by printing money and politicians must now act fast to enact structural reforms and pro-investment policies to boost growth, central bankers said on Saturday.

Obama In India

Reuters Showcase

RK Laxman Dead

RK Laxman Dead

'Common Man' cartoonist RK Laxman dead at 93  Full Article 

Banking Revolution

Banking Revolution

India turns to corner shops, mobile phones for banking revolution.  Full Article 

Nuclear Group

Nuclear Group

China urges India to take steps to satisfy standards of NSG  Full Article 

Gold Market

Gold Market

Chinese gold demand holds up ahead of holiday, Indian buying weak  Full Article 

India-U.S. Relations

India-U.S. Relations

Column - U.S. and India should join to balance China's rise  Full Article 

Padma Bhushan

Padma Bhushan

India honours Bill Gates with civilian award  Full Article 

Fashionable Modi

Fashionable Modi

When Modi met Obama, his name was all over - his suit  Full Article 

New Greek PM

New Greek PM

Greek leftist Tsipras sworn in as PM to fight bailout terms  Full Article 

Australian Open

Australian Open

Venus fireworks illuminate Australia Day  Full Article 

Reuters India Mobile

Reuters India Mobile

Get the latest news on the go. Visit Reuters India on your mobile device  Full Coverage