Twitter has turned into a source of information about diseases for researchers who wish to track health trends and the spread of disease. This is so because there are many people, who take to the micro-blogging platform to post about minor health issues such as a runny nose and the flu.
Twitter: a treasure trove for researchers
Researchers at Bay Alarm Medical used data about what people are saying about their sickness and where in the U.S. they are saying it. For this, they took a closer look at nearly 500,000 geo-tagged tweets and combined this crowd-sourced data with information from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). As a result, they were able to come up with an overview of sickness across the country. People might be interested in knowing the sicknesses the residents in their home state are battling, and now Bay Alarm Medical has the Twitter-based answer to these queries.
There are some common terms Twitter users often use to post about their sickness, and unsurprisingly, “I’m sick” is the most common. This term is 34% more popular than “fever,” the next closest competitor. “Flu” is the most common illness discussed, and the term is mentioned nearly 13 times more frequently than “stomach flu,” the number 2 illness.
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Which are the most sickness-prone U.S. states?
The findings show that Middle America is most prone to disease, or at least, people who live there like to talk about it on Twitter. Ohio leads with around 164 tweets regarding illness for every 100,000 residents. Considering the fact that Ohio is ranked 22nd in the country for prevention of infectious disease, Twitter could offer a pretty accurate reflection of broader issues across the state.
Texas comes in second, and according to the CDC, the percentage of uninsured residents is high there. Also immunization rates among children and adolescents are low there. Nevada is at the third position, and Bay Alarm notes that the problem of low per capita public health funding persists in this state. It also struggles with low immunization rates and a high percentage of uninsured residents.
Issues such as low health insurance and immunization rates also persist in both Louisiana and Michigan, which landed in the fourth and fifth spots, respectively. Bay Alarm also found that women often tweeted about having a sick partner or sick child.