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Can Social Networking Prevent the Spread of Illness?

13 April 2013 No Comment

Can Social Networking Prevent the Spread of Illness?

Social media has a plethora of uses. New laptops (especially those using Windows 8), tablets, and mobile phones can all be used to keep tabs on friends living abroad, share photos of big moments, and forecast sickness. Forecast sickness?! Yes, the next time your son or daughter catches a cold or displays the early symptoms of influenza, instead of keeping them quarantined in the house, simply get online and see where outbreaks of the viruses are occurring and plan accordingly.

Can Social Networking Prevent the Spread of Illness?

Flickr User xlivexalivex

 

The aptly named Sickweather.com compiles illness-related information shared over Facebook and Twitter in order to track where the outbreaks are occurring. This comes as a real breath of fresh air for parents across the UK who might be worried about their kids catching a virus during flu season. Not surprisingly, the primary users of the online service are: parents with young children, business travelers, and elderly citizens.

Available in every English-speaking country and soon to be accessible in Spain and Latin America, the service lets users switch on their laptops, sign in and share exactly how they are feeling. Posts like “feeling sick today” or “the doc says I have strep throat” are aggregated into a massive database that uses an algorithm to track and subsequently map the data. Since location services run on the majority of computer systems, smartphones, and tablets, social media websites represent a wealth of information that can be used for tracking outbreaks of illness. The sickweather.com service has plenty of practical uses: like being able to increase your hand-washing vigilance when it comes to kids’ playing in certain areas; or groundbreaking features like being able to track region-wide health issues.

There are other similar online services – like the Google Flu Trends tool and the WebMD cold and flu symptom map – that are also based on user activity. But what makes sickweather.com particularly useful for parents is how it attempts to understand the movement of disease in real time. When a parent signs on to the website, he or she is greeted with ‘today’s sickweather’ forecast that lists the most commonly shared or tweeted illnesses in their area that day, and offers detailed definitions of each. He or she can then check an interactive map for their city and zoom in as far as an individual street to check if there are any outbreaks. Sickweather.com refers to this feature as the ‘Doppler Radar’ of illness.

If your child is showing signs of an oncoming virus, why risk it? Get online and see where the most recent cold and flu outbreaks are occurring in your area, and protect your children from catching or from spreading illness. It’s as easy as checking the weather forecast and is available on whatever device you are working with, be it a mobile phone, laptop, or tablet.

Featured Image: Flickr User bfchirpy

*Joint Guest post, with some modification