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:

Reuters Showcase

India Crush UAE

India Crush UAE

India cruise to easy win over UAE in Perth.  Read 

Budget 2015

Budget 2015

Full coverage of 2015/16 budget.  Full Coverage 

Sahara Saga

Sahara Saga

Some staff say Sahara has not paid salaries for months   Full Article 

Movie Review

Movie Review

"Dum Laga Ke Haisha" is rooted in reality, writes Shilpa Jamkhandikar.  Full Article | Related Story 

Nimoy Dies

Nimoy Dies

Leonard Nimoy, Star Trek's 'Mr. Spock,' dies at 83.  Full Article 

Gown Returned

Gown Returned

Lupita Nyong'o's $150,000 Oscar gown returned by thief via TMZ.  Full Article 

World Cup 2015

World Cup 2015

Full coverage of cricket world cup in Australia and New Zealand.  Full Coverage 

Reuters India Mobile

Reuters India Mobile

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