Update on Twitter Awareness Metrics of Swine Flu

By Timothy M. O'Brien
April 27, 2009 | Comments: 4

Note: We're not trying to beat a drum of panic with these posts, what we're interested in here is how microblogging provides us with a window into emerging conversations. The current CDC investigation has confirmed 40 cases distributed throughout the US. Most of these cases have recovered, and only one of the 40 confirmed cases required hospitalization. This information was current as of Monday @ 1:44 PM during the latest CDC conference call. It should be noted that the CDC spokesperson did expect this number to increase, but emphasized the fact that this particular flu was responsive to antivirals such as Tamiflu. For more information, please follow @CDCemergency.

There has been a fair amount of criticism of using Twitter as a method to track awareness. I yield that Twitter is "noisy" by definition and that it has been adopted by a very subset of the general population. Aside from that, I do think that it provides an interesting view into general awareness of a potential pandemic disease outbreak. Read my response to some of this criticism.

Compare these graphs to the graphs from yesterday, and you'll see a dramatic difference. This is the latest Twist graph for the term "swine". As you can see, the activity as a percentage of Tweets has continued to increase through Monday to 2.68%.


The number of followers for CDCemergency has increased to 18,118 from the ~5500 number on Saturday. Here is the latest Twitterholic graph which was generated earlier this morning which shows CDCemergency followers at 10,585.


Swine Squatters: Domains and Twitter

One troubling development in the Swine Flu + Twitter landscape is the registration of a number of non-governmental Swine Flu Twitter accounts. I will not list these accounts in this article because I think that it distracts from the message that the WHO and CDC is trying to distribute. As Twitter continues to be a vehicle for the distribution of timely public health information, I expect there will be some way to "authenticate" official Tweets from non-official Tweets. whether this results in more regulation of the medium or the establishment of "white-label" Twitter solutiosn for government remains to be seen. The lines between private and public platforms is blurring.

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