Using Social Media for Disease Surveillance

Establishment and operation of a surveillance system are very much resource driven. We need to spend a lot of resources (financial, technical, logistical and others) to establish a sensitive surveillance system. Due to the economic downturn, countries have to plan smartly on their investment and should rely on innovation to establish a system. One of the components of the surveillance system which has enabled us to save resources is event-based surveillance, which helps on monitoring various events from informal sources like community, media etc. Using media information for surveillance is one of the proactive measures that are in place in a number of countries.  Media provides free of cost surveillance services to the ministry of health on disease detection.

In addition to media, social media can be used as sources of information for disease control. There are not much evidence of using social media for the disease control programs; however,  using social media for disease surveillance and control could have multiple scopes as followings:

  1. Early detection of disease or potential outbreak and contact tracing (one of the sources of event base surveillance or epidemic intelligence)
  2. Monitoring of disease trends and interventions (control activities)
  3. People’s perception, sentiments and behavior relevant to disease and disease control
  4. Assessing the level of awareness and interpretation of disease in the  community on a specific disease of international threat or local endemic diseases.
  5. Risk Communication on disease control
  6. Monitoring and evaluation of the impact of interventions.

Based on these potential scopes, we can conceptualize on utilizing social media for disease surveillance and control. Few are the initiative or examples, which were used in the past by author.

Example 1:

Use of Facebook on contact tracing of a passenger during the early stage of Pandemic H1N1 2009 – (done in 2009). Details are available upon request.

Rapid assessment: Using Twitter for Middle East Respiratory Syndrome due to Corona Virus (MERS-CoV= monitoring  with following objectives (done in 2014)

  1. Use of social media for MERS-CoV case detection
  2. Consider whether social media could complement existing systems for monitoring infectious diseases

Tweets were analyzed based on followings:

For clear image: –  Click Here

Detail findings – Upon Request