Internet Chatter helps track the spread of Swine Flu

The Internet has played a major role in tracking the recent outbreak of Swine Flu and in keeping the public informed of the severity of the situation.

The Mexican public are taking precautions to prevent the spread of swine flu

The Mexican public are taking precautions to prevent the spread of swine flu

The Veratect Corporation, a Seattle-based biosurveillance startup, is claiming that they alerted the Centers for Disease Control to the situation in Mexico before the health authorities had declared a problem.

“Veratect provides the earliest detection of emerging threats to human, animal and plant life while empowering corporations, government organizations, NGOs and global citizens with trusted, timely and actionable information.”

The company monitors and analyses the flow of social media traffic along with more official reports. Multi-lingual experts look for very early indicators of emerging risk. They do research both off the Internet and on it and blogs and social networking sites are key sources of information. By tracking what average people, professionals in public health and journalists write about an illness, they can spot a potentially serious outbreak before it occurs.

“We started picking up the early indicators of social disruption, whether it shows up on blogs or Twitter,” said Bob Hart, the CEO of Veratect. “We can pick up the first indicators of behavioral changes.”

In the short video clip below, Hart provides an insight into how his company works.

Healthmap is another internet resource which can be used to follow the development of the swine flu situation across the globe. It is a freely available website which integrates outbreak data from various sources. Healthmap is directly funded by Google.org. Click here to see the latest recorded Swine Flu data on Healthmap.

Ultimately, these sites combine information regarding  health related queries typed into online search engines with expert opinion and analysis to detect the outbreak of a disease at it’s very early stages. Therefore, the internet and the way in which internet activity can be tracked and sourced provides a detailed look at the general health of a community in a given place at a given time.

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