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Sickweather tracks illness via social media updates

Status updates on Facebook and tweets on Twitter often mention whether the user of that social media is feeling under the weather or not. But a new social networking tool called Sickweather aims to not only connect who is sick in your social network, but to map trending illnesses across regions.

Using a tool called Sickweather, you can see if there is a flu outbreak in the town you will be visiting on vacation.

Launched last fall, Sickweather asks users to log in and post whether they are experiencing any particular symptoms such as common cold, flu, allergies, headache or stress. Occurrences of these posts are aggregated into “clouds” and shown in patterns on a map, similar to how storms or high and low pressure areas are marked on a meteorological map.

Today for example in the Baltimore area, headache, stress and the common cold are going around. In Austin, Texas, allergies and hay fever were prevalent. And over in Seattle, Washington people logging into Sickweather were experiencing fever, headache and cough.

The founders of Sickweather state on the network's website that “At Sickweather you can connect with your friends and family when you need each other the most for sympathy and commiseration.” Obviously, the data tracked in Sickweather goes far beyond that. Knowing where diseases are trending and travelling is the work of epidemiologists. If you remember the flu outbreak in 2009, you should recall that scientists who understand how to track illness at the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta reported on these trends daily. Knowledge of disease spread and travel can be critical in controlling outbreaks and epidemics.

Data about where and what people are sick with could also be useful to advertisers and over-the-counter remedy manufacturers. More people sick with the flu on one area could mean better sales of fever-reducing medications in that region.

Would you be willing to share your news about little Jimmy’s chickenpox or your latest migraine to a circle much larger than your friends and family on Facebook or Twitter? Are you willing to become a data point in a larger data set that might be used for a variety of purposes, including commercial ones? Post your comments here. And remember to cough into your elbow.

Learn more or sign up at Sickweather


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