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US researchers tracking flu through Twitter

Published on Jan 25, 2013 7:50 AM
 
Researchers and computer scientists at Johns Hopkins University have devised a way to track cases of influenza across the United States (US) using the microblogging site Twitter. -- PHOTO: AFP

NEW YORK (REUTERS) - Researchers and computer scientists at Johns Hopkins University have devised a way to track cases of influenza across the United States (US) using the microblogging site Twitter.

Twitter is full of tweets about the flu, which has been severe and reached epidemic proportions this year, but it has been difficult to separate tweets about the flu from actual cases.

"We wanted to separate hype about the flu from messages from people who truly become ill," said Mr Mark Dredze, an assistant research professor in Johns Hopkins' department of computer science, who monitors public health trends by looking at tweets.

To solve the problem, Mr Dredze and his colleagues developed a screening method based on human language-processing technologies that only delivers real-time information on actual flu cases and filters out the rest of the chatter on the public tweets in the US.

 
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