The Common Cold – Digital Diagnosis

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If you’re reading this blog, you’re probably well-aware of the importance of social media platforms, including Facebook and Twitter. We all know that Twitter can be a useful tool for breaking news, hot new songs and up-to-the-minute sports scores but did you also know that one of the hottest social media platforms now has the capability of predicting when breakouts of illnesses such as the common cold and flu are occurring? It’s true! According to Adam Sadilek, Postdoctoral Fellow and his research team at the University of Rochester in New York, now thanks to Twitter, it’s possible to predict when any given individual will come down with a pesky, old common cold (even eight days before they show symptoms!).

It’s not as farfetched as it sounds. In fact, what the Rochester team did was analyze geolocated Tweets for one month in 2010 that indicated when a person was showing signs of a cold. During this process, and faced with an overwhelming number of “sick” Tweets, the team was then obligated to come up with an algorithm to differentiate Tweets about being physically sick (like the common cold) as opposed to just “tired of” something like weather, politics, noise, etc.

Once the Tweets were separated into the correct categories, the team then tracked individuals who visited the same 100 by 100 meter cell within a given timeframe which led them to accurately predict (with a 90% accuracy rate!) if the person would be sick in eight days. Quite simply, the experiment was able to locate all of the common cold virus “hotspots.”

Like any groundbreaking experiment, there are of course flaws to this method. For example, people who don’t consistently Tweet about their common cold symptoms or just the notion that there are multiple reasons why people get sick in the first place.

If anything, this research does generate ideas about public health issues and might one day serve as a useful personal tool when debating whether or not to go to the mall or movie theater on a particular day, or head out of town. Unfortunately, as it seems now, some illnesses are just plain unavoidable but it is an interesting idea that one day, we might have the ability to control which ones we actually come into contact with at all.

Log on to the Cold-EEZE Facebook page or the Get Well Sooner Blog and let us know if you have ever written a Facebook status or Tweeted about getting sick or catching the common cold. You might be part of the solution! And remember, if you have come into contact with a cold virus “hotspot” and have any of the early signs or symptoms of the common cold, Cold-EEZE lozenges, Oral Spray and new Daytime/Nighttime QuickMelts will all shorten your cold, so you can get back to Tweeting what’s really important to you!