Social and news media enable estimation of epidemiological patterns early in the 2010 Haitian cholera outbreak

Am J Trop Med Hyg. 2012 Jan;86(1):39-45. doi: 10.4269/ajtmh.2012.11-0597.


During infectious disease outbreaks, data collected through health institutions and official reporting structures may not be available for weeks, hindering early epidemiologic assessment. By contrast, data from informal media are typically available in near real-time and could provide earlier estimates of epidemic dynamics. We assessed correlation of volume of cholera-related HealthMap news media reports, Twitter postings, and government cholera cases reported in the first 100 days of the 2010 Haitian cholera outbreak. Trends in volume of informal sources significantly correlated in time with official case data and was available up to 2 weeks earlier. Estimates of the reproductive number ranged from 1.54 to 6.89 (informal sources) and 1.27 to 3.72 (official sources) during the initial outbreak growth period, and 1.04 to 1.51 (informal) and 1.06 to 1.73 (official) when Hurricane Tomas afflicted Haiti. Informal data can be used complementarily with official data in an outbreak setting to get timely estimates of disease dynamics.

Publication types

  • Evaluation Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Blogging / statistics & numerical data*
  • Cholera / epidemiology*
  • Disease Outbreaks / statistics & numerical data*
  • Epidemics
  • Government Programs
  • Haiti / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Internet
  • Mass Media / statistics & numerical data*
  • Population Surveillance / methods*
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Social Media / statistics & numerical data*
  • Time Factors