With social media gaining traction since SARS (2003) and Avian H5N1 (2006), it will be interesting to see what role it might now play as a media tool in the current pandemic du jour. The benefits of social media are clear, namely speed of communication, and monitoring sentiment. The cost in accuracy is not insignficant, and it will be simply a matter of how to best use it. Can new micro media services like twitter add anything useful? Will good information float well enough above the bad to make it worthwhile keeping track of?
I don’t think the question is whether people should, its a question of how they should. Twitter is just an open conversation tool, and people will use it to talk about issues important to them, and if swineflu/H1N1 does take hold, it will become one of those issues.
Access and distribute reliable information. Thankfully, several streams of information are available from official government and international agencies. (WHO -website & twitter CDC – Website, Twitter, Email). The higher the official signal to unofficial noise, the better. You could argue that it is often slower and more deliberate than other sources, but they have significant cost/benefit analyses to make with each official release. Partially uncertain information is occasionally communicated, but only after due consideration.
Focus on facts and confirmed cases. Real numbers are much less than that reported in the media. If somebody publishes something without a link to either official or reliable press (eg. AFP) sources and you’re still interested, try looking for a pattern of multiple first hand accounts rather than a chain of retweets. Specifically with the current H1N1 Swineflu outbreak, “suspected” cases can be very misleading. Once an “area” (eg. often a city) has a single laboratory confirmed case, everybody who presents to the emergency department, or general practitioner, with at least two of 1) runny nose or nasal congestion, 2) sore throat, 3) cough, 4) fever or feverishness gets labelled as a “suspected case”. This is all in the CDC case definition here. You can imagine the number of patients with otherwise innocuous colds that come through like this everyday, let alone when the population is on heightened alert.
The next bit of information of interest to most people will be a change in the global pandemic alert phase which can be found here. For Australians, the federal government has a website up at http://www.flupandemic.gov.au/ with some information on pandemic preparedness with links to each state health departments. Its not the best, but at least its something local for both clinicians and the public.
The best source of CONFIRMED US cases are to be found here http://www.cdc.gov/swineflu/
Below is an unofficial map from http://flutracker.rhizalabs.com/ of human cases of H1N1 infection.
Know of any good, reliable sources of information people might find useful?
Anesthesiologist based in Melbourne, Australia.
My interests are in next generation web applications and the potential within the growing volumes of data, and increased personal connectivity to improve the way we make decisions.
The web is less about computers than it is about connecting people and bridging the information gap found in a web-deficient world.
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