A joint study conducted by researchers at John Hopkins University and George Washington University is currently making use of social media website Twitter to track outbreaks of flu in New York City.
While Google has come up with its own flu tracker, the researchers said that social networking sites such as Twitter can be more effective in accurately gauging the spread of flu at the local level. The researchers created 'word clouds' which scan the tweets and identify those linked with flu infection. The study has been published in the journal PLOS ONE.
"We found that we could do just as well in predicting flu trends in New York City as we did nationally. That's critical because decisions about what to do during a flu epidemic are largely made at the local level", lead researcher Mark Dredze said.