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UAE to track outbreak of diseases using Twitter, Google

Abu Dhabi, UAE: Doctors may soon be better able to predict the outbreak of infectious diseases using Google and Twitter – powered surveillance system. The Ministry of Health and the Health Authority Abu Dhabi (Haad) is considering introducing ‘syndromic surveillance’ to better predict the outbreak of infectious diseases.

Dr Farida Al Hosani, the manager of the communicable diseases department at Haad, said, “Syndromic surveillance is still under review by the World Health Organisation (WHO). It utilises internet search engines and social networking sites to provide a more in-depth report. Google’s flu map [Google Flu Trend Tracker] is one of the methods of surveillance.”

“What they depend on is that people search for fevers. Google maps it and they see how many people in the UAE searched for this term. They map the people according to their countries. One other type of syndromic surveillance is looking into Twitter trending. You can see that when people have some kind of symptom, are sick, they might mention this on Twitter,” explained Dr. Al Hosani.

Google’s tracker – first used in 2008 to help people track the spread of the H1N1 virus, also known as swine flu – was very representative, added Dr Al Hosani.

Source: The National