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11 Mar 2013 08:35 AM

Social media faster than traditional sources in tracking cholera in Haiti, study says


"Internet-based news and Twitter feeds were faster than traditional sources at detecting the onset and progression of the cholera epidemic in post-earthquake Haiti ..., according to a new study published in the January issue of the American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene (AJTMH)," an AJTMH press release states. "The study is the first to demonstrate the use of data from 'informal' media sources in monitoring an outbreak of a neglected tropical disease in a resource-limited setting, and shows that these sources can yield reliable decision-making data during deadly disease outbreaks almost in real-time, often far earlier than traditional surveillance methods that include surveys of hospitals and health clinics," the press release adds (1/9).

"The authors used HealthMap, an automated surveillance platform, to measure the volume of news media generated during the first 100 days of the outbreak, and they also looked at the number of 'cholera' posts on Twitter," SciDev.Net writes, noting, "They found that, as the official number of cases increased and decreased, so did the volume of informal media reports about cholera" (Hirschfeld, 1/9). "The information matched official results in certain places and generally followed the same trends. But unlike the officially issued information, this data could be collected immediately -- and could have been available up to two weeks faster," according to Scientific American (Graber, 1/9).

This article was reprinted from kaiserhealthnews.org with permission from the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. Kaiser Health News, an editorially independent news service, is a program of the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonpartisan health care policy research organization unaffiliated with Kaiser Permanente.

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