Using Twitter to track the flu

Tweets can track the flu (Photo credit: Stitch)

Monitoring tweets for symptoms of the flu could boost surveillance

The influenza virus is one of our most enduring opponents. Each year, seasonal epidemics sweep across the globe, leaving up to 5 million people stricken with aching muscles, headaches, feverish chills, and the runny nose, sore throat and coughing of an upper respiratory infection. A further half million people die from their illness.

In addition to being potentially deadly, the flu is also a particularly wily virus. For some viruses, vaccination can protect against infection for life. But the flu is a master shapeshifter, continually changing its appearance and rapidly rendering flu vaccines ineffective. In order to keep pace with the briskly evolving virus, new flu vaccines are developed each year. Continue reading “Using Twitter to track the flu”