YouTube as a source of information on the H1N1 influenza pandemic

Am J Prev Med. 2010 Mar;38(3):e1-3. doi: 10.1016/j.amepre.2009.11.007.


Background: The ongoing H1N1 influenza pandemic has created a significant amount of health concern. Adequate dissemination of correct information about H1N1 influenza could help in decreasing the disease spread and associated anxiety in the population.

Purpose: This study aims to examine the effective use of the popular Internet video site YouTube as an information source during the initial phase of the H1N1 outbreak.

Methods: YouTube was searched on June 26, 2009, using the keywords swine flu, H1N1 influenza, and influenza for videos uploaded in the past 3 months containing relevant information about the disease. The videos were classified as useful, misleading, or as news updates based on the kind of information contained. Total viewership, number of days since upload, total duration of videos, and source of upload were noted.

Results: A total of 142 videos had relevant information about H1N1 influenza. In all, 61.3% of videos had useful information about the disease, whereas 23% were misleading. Total viewership share of useful videos was 70.5%, whereas that of misleading videos was 17.5%, with no significant difference in viewership/day. The CDC contributed about 12% of the useful videos, with a significant viewership share of 47%. No significant differences were seen in viewership/day for useful videos based on the kind of information they contained.

Conclusions: YouTube has a substantial amount of useful information about H1N1 influenza. A source-based preference is seen among the viewers, and CDC-uploaded videos are being used in an increasing proportion as a source of authentic information about the disease.

MeSH terms

  • Disease Outbreaks
  • Humans
  • Influenza A Virus, H1N1 Subtype*
  • Influenza, Human / epidemiology*
  • Information Dissemination / methods*
  • Internet / standards*
  • Video Recording