Within moments of the explosions at the finish line of the 2013 Boston marathon, Twitter messages began appearing describing the incident and casualties—some preceded the alerts from Massachusetts public health and emergency agencies sent to emergency departments (EDs) in the area.
The prospect of using such real-time data to provide early public health warnings—possibly within minutes—and timely alerts to hospitals about oncoming surges or emerging public health concerns has led to a new wave of studies probing ways to use Twitter in medicine and public health.
Infectious disease specialists and public health agencies were the first to mine social media data streams for early signs of cholera and influenza outbreaks. At least 2 cities are already using social media data to monitor foodborne illness.
Image Courtesy of Pexels.