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:
  • Most Popular
  • Most Shared

Infosys

Tech Showcase

Setback To Assange

Setback To Assange

Swedish appeal court upholds Assange detention order  Full Article 

Global Reach

Global Reach

Jack Ma says Alibaba will set up international version of Taobao marketplace  Full Article 

Google Apps

Google Apps

Google to launch its app store in China - The Information.  Full Article 

Tech Acquisition

Tech Acquisition

Tech Mahindra to buy U.S.-based network services operator for $240 million   Full Article 

Chinese Cyber Attack

Chinese Cyber Attack

NSA chief warns Chinese cyber attacks could shut U.S. infrastructure   Full Article 

Intel's Mobile Reach

Intel's Mobile Reach

Intel chief not embarrassed by mobile business, still not proud  Full Article 

Court Settlement

Court Settlement

Google, Rockstar agree to settle patent litigation - filing  Full Article 

'Game Changers'

'Game Changers'

Mobile phones 'game changers' in securing children's rights - UNICEF  Full Article 

Reuters India Mobile

Reuters India Mobile

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