Brazilian researchers using twitter to track dengue outbreaks

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A team of science and technology experts in Brazil has developed and tested new software capable of using Twitter to track dengue fever outbreaks in the country, New Scientist reports. The team, led by Wagner Meira of the Federal University of Minas Gerais, presented its work at the Web Science Conference in Germany last month. The team members programmed their system to detect tweets containing the word “dengue” and information about the user’s location. The software analyzed sentence structure and wording to focus on tweets about personal experiences with dengue while filtering out tweets containing jokes or information about public campaigns. In total, the researchers analyzed 2,447 tweets about dengue sent through the social networking portal between January and May 2009. They found a strong correlation between personal experience tweets about dengue and official data on outbreaks from the Brazilian Ministry of Health. According to Meira, using Twitter to track dengue could help health officials respond faster to outbreaks and identify locations that need more resources.

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