Online Program

Early Epidemic Detection of Ebola through Tweet Analysis: Nigeria as a case study

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Michelle Odlum, EdD, MPH, Nursing Informatics, Columbia University School of Nursing, New York, NY
Sunmoo Yoon, PhD, RN, Columbia University School of Nursing, New York, NY
Background: Surveillance through electronic mediums like the Internet, provide tremendous opportunities for public health practice.  The current Ebola outbreak in Nigeria has provided a unique opportunity to examine the use of Twitter, a powerful Social Network Site (SNS) tool during a public health crisis.  We provide a snapshot of Ebola-related tweets to monitor trends of information spread and examine early epidemic detection.

 Methods:  During Ebola outbreak from July 24th to August 1st, 2014, tweets were collected regarding Ebola.  Keywords of related data included # #EbolaVirus, #EbolaFacts.  Data elements collected for tweets included contents, time stamps, latitude and longitude codes.  Twitter communication was examined through natural language processing and time series analysis.

 Results: Tweets steadily increased (six-fold posted and twenty-fold disseminated) from July 24th until July 31st.  The first probable case announced by the Nigerian Ministry of Health was July 27th .  Tweets increased three to seven days prior to the official CDC announcement on July 31st.  Twitter users discussed the first case in tweets such as“#EbolaVirus 1st case discovered Lagos, pls spread the word”.  Ebola news was first tweeted on July 24th and reached 1,196,793 with 120,574,549 reached on July 30th, a hundred-fold increase.

 Conclusion:  Our results demonstrates the effective use of social media in public health outbreak surveillance.  We have also demonstrated that although Twitter adoption and use in resource-limited settings is lagging, an observed increase in the frequency of Ebola-related tweets shows its usefulness.  SNS tools such as Twitter can support surveillance efforts in resource limited settings.

Learning Areas:

Public health or related research

Learning Objectives:
Describe the use of Twitter during the current Ebola outbreak in early detection and surveillance for Nigeria.

Keyword(s): Data Collection and Surveillance, Social Media

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I have been a scientist in infectious disease for several years. I have worked in infectious disease areas including HIV/AIDS and immunizations and currently Ebola. I hold degrees in Nursing and Public Health.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.