Social media scanner, the Sickweather app, warns users when sick people are nearby.
Globally, thousands of people update their social media sites – like Facebook and Twitter – daily. Often posts and tweets will included terms such as “I have the flu” or “Suffering from this miserable cold” or perhaps the mere utterance of chickenpox or lice.
When this information is made publicly available by the user it typically contains location information. Using a patent-pending algorithm Sickweather evaluates this data, tracks, and maps an illness forecast.
When several reports appear in proximity to one another at approximately the same time, they are grouped as potential storm activity imposed on a map. They are represented by the orange polygons and lines, explains Sickweather’s website.
Sickweather also allows members to report symptoms and illness outbreaks directly on their “How Are You Feeling Today” option, then connect with Facebook and Twitter to share the post.
Sickweather is essentially a type of disease surveillance tool, an epidemiological practice by which the spread of disease is monitored in order to establish patterns of progression. The main role of disease surveillance is to predict, observe, and minimize the harm caused by outbreak, epidemic, and pandemic situations.
A key part of modern disease surveillance is the practice of disease case reporting, which is what you are doing when you are sharing illness-related information with the Sickweather app.
Of course Sickweather isn’t the only source of disease reporting. With the advent of modern communication technology, old school agencies like the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) can report cases and deaths from significant diseases within days – sometimes hours – of the onset of occurrence.
For example, WHO’s Epidemic and Pandemic Alert and Response (EPR) is meant to detect, respond, and verify epidemic-prone and emerging disease threats like anthrax, hemorrhagic fevers, influenza, and other life-threatening plagues.
With a similar mission in mind, Sickweather is the world’s first real-time social media disease surveillance tool, collecting usable symptom data on conditions like the flu, common cold, bronchitis, whooping off — even a search option for man cold and pink eye, and warning individuals of the possible threat in their area.
[Photo Credit: Thomas Hawk]