Researchers at John Hopkins University have determined that Twitter can be used to track flu outbreaks across the U.S. Although others have tried to gain insight from mapped tweets before and had mixed results, the John Hopkins team was able to create a near perfect correlation between the information flow from Twitter and the reality of what was taking place. To achieve this result, they developed a language modeling program that filters out word combinations that approximate those used to report the illness, but are unrelated. The team believes this discovery may fundamentally change the way future pathogenic outbreaks are tracked and manged by the public health community. More below (the embedded 1:40 You Tube video is well done):
(John Hopkins News Network, January 24, 2013)
Comment: NICE! Hopefully, the efforts by these gentlemen will lead to developments that provide better granularity for pandemic outbreaks than is currently the case for the majority of the nation - state or regional level (e.g. map above from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention).