Social networking examined in tracking infectious disease outbreaks in China

weibo monitoring bird flu china chickens caged
Social networks in China, such as Weibo, could help track infectious diseases much faster than before. Domesticated poultry for consumption, such as chicken, is thought to be the cause of the deadly disease. moji1980/123rf
Social media and social networking have increasingly become important tools in the health industry in the United States, used in tracking everything from food poisoning to chlamydia. In China, however, social networks such as Weibo are being used to track potential outbreaks of disease — and they hold the potential to enable users to get a hold of infectious diseases like bird flu (also known as avian influenza), much faster than in the past.

According to Imelda Saad of China NewsAsia, researchers in Singapore began studying the connection between social media platforms and combating the spread of infectious disease during the bird flu outbreak in China that occurred in 2013. The research included data analytics for discovering patterns and comparing information from social networking sites such as Weibo with the World Health Organization, health authorities, and news websites.

Researchers found social media networks to be particularly helpful in providing timely and relevant information especially during times of crisis. In the example of bird flu, social media was integral in discovering and tracking first-hand reports — sometimes as quickly as one hour before any other informational sources, and almost always much faster than through traditional methods of the past.

The information not only helped to track down the instances of infectious disease faster but also provided information about the disease, such as the lifestyle history of sufferers and patient symptoms, both elements that have been a focus of many health-related studies around the world.

“There was actually a patient who is a vegetarian,” explained Dr. Yang Yinping of the Institute of High Performance Computing in Singapore, “That means this person shouldn’t eat chicken, but he still got infected. So this is important lifestyle information for epidemiologists and clinical professionals to take into account, because this basically means the human-to-human transmission started.”

In China, however, using social media as a tool for monitoring has faced complications, especially given the government’s past role in managing and overseeing platforms like Weibo. Also, according to the researchers, the wealth of information available online caused difficulty in sifting through and determining exactly which information was real and which was not, and required filtering techniques for verifying information. Because of the research, however, researchers have been able to gather information in real-time to track any potential disease outbreak that should occur.

Emerging Tech

Global Good wants to rid the world of deadly diseases with lasers and A.I.

Global Good, a collaboration between Intellectual Ventures and Bill Gates, aims to eradicate diseases that kill children in developing nations. It tackles difficult problems with high-tech prototypes.
Emerging Tech

No faking! Doctors can now objectively measure how much pain you’re in

Researchers at Indiana University School of Medicine have discovered the blood biomarkers that can objectively reveal just how much pain a patient is in. Here's why that's so important.

Chrome is a fantastic browser, but is is still the best among new competitors?

Choosing a web browser for surfing the web can be tough with all the great options available. Here we pit the latest versions of Chrome, Opera, Firefox, Edge, and Vivaldi against one another to find the best browsers for most users.
Emerging Tech

The Great White Shark’s genome has been decoded, and it could help us end cancer

In a significant step for marine and genetic science, researchers have decoded the genome of the great white shark. The genetic code revealed a wealth of insight into what makes these creatures so successful from an evolutionary standpoint.
Social Media

Periscope tool adds guests to feeds so streamers can become talk show hosts

Periscope users can now invite viewers to chime into the conversation with more than just the comment tool. By enabling the option to add guests, livestreamers can add guests to the conversation, in audio format only.

Crouching, climbing, and creeping, the perfect Instagram shot knows no bounds

Just how far will you go for the perfect Instagram? A recent survey shows just how willing Instagram users -- and Instagram husbands -- are to climb, lie down, embarrass themselves or let their food go cold for the perfect shot.
Social Media

Facebook’s long-promised ‘unsend’ feature arrives. Here’s how to use it

Send a message to the wrong person? Messenger now gives you 10 minutes to take it back. After an update beginning to roll out today, users can now retract messages if they act within the first 10 minutes after sending the message.
Social Media

YouTube boss admits even her own kids gave the ‘Rewind’ video a thumbs down

YouTube's 2018 Rewind video went down like a lead balloon at the end of last year, becoming the most disliked video in its history. And now YouTube's CEO has admitted that even her own kids thought it was pretty darn awful.
Social Media

Snapchat finally recovers from its redesign — so here comes an Android update

Snapchat's drop in users after launching a controversial redesign has finally stagnated. During the fourth quarter and 2018 earnings report, Snapchat shared that the company is rolling out an Android update designed to increase performance.
Social Media

Skype’s new ‘blur background’ feature could help keep you from blushing

Skype's latest feature for desktop lets you blur your background during video calls. The idea is that it keeps you as the focus instead of distracting others with whatever embarrassing things you might have on show behind you.
Social Media

Twitter users are declining but more people are seeing ads every day

Twitter's end-of-the-year report for 2018 is a mix of good and bad news. The good news is that more users are seeing adds daily, the metric the company will focus on moving forward. But the bad news is that monthly active users are…

Switch up your Reddit routine with these interesting, inspiring, and zany subs

So you've just joined the wonderful world of Reddit and want to explore it. With so many subreddits, however, navigating the "front page of the internet" can be daunting. Here are some of the best subreddits to get you started.

YouTube beats Apple, Netflix as the most trusted brand by millennials

The popular video sharing website YouTube climbed up in an annual Mblm study, moving up from third place in 2018 and coming ahead of both Apple and Netflix in final 2019 rankings. 
Social Media

LinkedIn finally gets around to launching its own live video tool

Live video is coming to LinkedIn for businesses and individuals on the site. The livestreaming feature is launching in beta in the U.S. before rolling out to the entire community.