So­cial me­dia gets jump on the CDC

Modern Healthcare - - OUTLIERS ASIDES & INSIDES -

Dr. Google is al­ready ev­ery­one’s fa­vorite di­ag­nos­ti­cian, but per­haps has been some­what lack­ing as an epi­demi­ol­o­gist.

En­ter Sick­weather, a Baltimore-based web­site that be­lieves it can har­ness the power of so­cial me­dia to cor­rectly pre­dict disease out­breaks—per­haps even bet­ter than the stodgy pow­ers that be in At­lanta.

Sick­weather ag­gre­gates data from Face­book sta­tus up­dates and tweets; if some­one posts that she’s un­der the weather and pro­vides her lo­ca­tion, the com­pany runs her symp­toms through an al­go­rithm and uses them to track the ge­o­graph­i­cal spread of disease ac­tiv­ity.

A Dop­pler radar for ill­ness, as the com­pany puts it.

But Sick­weather really hit its stride in Oc­to­ber when it got a six-week jump on the Cen­ters for Disease Con­trol and Preven­tion in an­nounc­ing (on Twit­ter, of course) that this year’s flu sea­son was off to an ear­lier start than last year.

It wasn’t un­til Dec. 3 that the CDC con­firmed that flu ac­tiv­ity had got­ten its ear­li­est start in a decade.

GETTY IM­AGES

A web­site claims so­cial me­dia tipped it off to the 2012-13 flu sea­son’s early start.

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