Chris Bauch, a Professor of Applied Mathematics at the University of Waterloo, and Alison Galvani from Yale University published new research in the Oct. 3, 2013, edition of the journal Science that examined the utility of social media in combating the spread of contagious diseases.
The first premise of the analysis was that social behaviors during contagious disease outbreaks are not accurately predictable. Secondly, the researchers suggest that the biological spread of diseases is intertwined with how society responds to those disease outbreaks.
Social media like Twitter and Facebook are suggested as large scale resources for examining how people respond to a contagious disease event and as a resource for modeling preventative and protective measures for a general scenario and specific disease events.
The advantages of social media analysis are a very fast response time to a new preventative method, the ability to adapt a preventative method or position rapidly based on real world input, and the capacity to track a contagious disease progression more rapidly than is presently possible using other methods.
The basic idea is people like to talk about how they feel when they are sick so taking advantage of that human quality can prevent the spread of contagious diseases.
Immediate applications are projected to be in the areas of acceptance of childhood immunizations and flu shot acceptance. More extreme preventative measures were demonstrated by modeling the SARS outbreak and quarantines.