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This Analytics Website Uses Twitter To Track Flu Outbreaks

So maybe you should be livetweeting all your meals.


Anyone with a Twitter account knows that the first thing you do when you think you’re about to get sick is tweet ad nauseum (no pun intended) about that oncoming flu or cold. Is it annoying to your followers? Probably. But it might also be helpful to researchers looking to track those diseases.

Health Social Analytics is a website that takes data from Twitter, news stories, health forums, and other relevant sites like WebMD, and turns them into trackable graphs. It’s an off-shoot of a similar site called Social Predictor, which shows you the both the number of tweets and news stories and the general mood of those stories for any given topic, and then predicts future trends based on that data.

Unlike Social Predictor, HSA is completely health-based and comes pre-loaded with a set of categories — “disorders,” “drugs,” and “organizations” — and keywords relating to different illnesses. It also tracks differences in the concentration of tweets with these keywords across a global map, and links them to keywords that often occur concurrently, as you can see in the image above.

Both Health Social Analytics and Social Predictor are the work of a team led by Vagelis Hristidis, an associate professor of computer science at the University of California Riverside. The researchers responsible for this project hope that it will make it easier for government agencies, drug companies, and media outlets to control outbreaks, investigate pharmacological trends, and cover online communities for chronic illnesses.


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