Social media has proven itself to be a useful tool for rekindling old friendships, networking for prospective jobs, staying up-to-date in breaking news, and now, mapping the spread of rampant epidemics. With the Zika virus the latest public health threat to make headlines, scientists have been using data from social media, blog posts, news sites, and Google search terms—to name a few—to curate models that help map the spread of the virus.
“This is a field called digital disease detection…Essentially, it tries to be the weather.com for disease outbreak,” said John Brownstein, chief innovation officer at Boston Children’s Hospital. Brownstein was joined by Johns Hopkins Medical School’s Hongjun Song at the latest in a series of Capitol Hill briefings, which took place on July 6, in Washington, DC. Together with the Dana Foundation, the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) has been hosting these public briefings for the last six years.