The social networking and micro-blogging site Twitter could prove to be an effective early warning system for epidemics, British experts say.
Researchers at London's City University found that about three million "tweets" that contained the word "flu" were posted on Twitter between May and December 2009, during the H1N1 swine flu pandemic.
"The numbers of tweets we collected by searching by keywords such as 'flu' or 'influenza' has been astronomical," study co-author Patty Kostkova told Agence France Presse. "What we're looking at now is, what is the potential of this enormous data set for early warning systems? Because it's a real time media, it can call for an immediate response if required."
The study was presented at the European Congress of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases.