A study published in the American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene showed that social media were roughly as accurate as the official records which recorded the start and progress of the disease epidemic. They were available much more quickly and up to two weeks before official government reports appeared. So the use of informal media is cost-effective and rapid and might be used to track other disease outbreaks.
On the other hand there is an bias towards developed and urban areas in these informal data sources. Nevertheless the lead author of the article Rumi Chunara felt that such data could complement official data.
Further information from Daniela Hirschfeld on SciDev Net
According to CILIPUpdate Jan. 2012, a Bristol (UK) research team has found that geotagged social media updates can spot trends in the ways diseases spread e.g. ‘flu. The ‘flu detector is online here.
Jean Shaw, Phi