Analysis of YouTube as a source of information for West Nile Virus infection

Clin Med Res. 2014 Dec;12(3-4):129-32. doi: 10.3121/cmr.2013.1194. Epub 2014 Feb 26.


Introduction: A major outbreak of West Nile Virus was seen last year in different parts of the United States. Adequate dissemination of correct information about the disease would have helped decrease its spread and the associated panic in the general population. In this study, we looked into the use of YouTube as a resource for providing information about West Nile Virus infection.

Objective: This study aims to identify and evaluate YouTube as resource for providing information on West Nile Virus infection to the general public.

Methods: YouTube was searched on November 25, 2012, using the keywords West Nile Virus epidemic, West Nile Virus infection, and West Nile Virus prevention for videos uploaded in the past 6 months containing relevant information about the disease. The videos were classified as useful, misleading, or as news updates based on the type of information contained. Total viewership, number of days since upload, total duration of videos, and source of upload were noted.

Results: A total of 106 videos with information on West Nile Virus infection were included in the study, with 79.24% having useful information about the disease. Among the useful videos, 51/84 (60.71%) had information on disease prevention, and 29/84 (34.52%) contained information on news and research updates. The majority of these videos were uploaded by individuals (54.6%) or news agencies (41.8 %). Healthcare agencies contributed only 3.4 % of the total videos. Even though the useful videos represented 72% of all videos, there was significantly higher total viewership and viewership per day for the non-useful videos (P<0.05).

Conclusions: YouTube may be a significant resource for dissemination of information on public health issues like West Nile virus infection and should be targeted by healthcare agencies for this use. The major drawback of this medium is lack of verification by authorized healthcare professionals before these videos are made available for viewing by the community. Hence, a strict caution should be exercised in obtaining the information from unauthorized videos posted on YouTube.

Keywords: Infection; West Nile Virus; YouTube.

MeSH terms

  • Consumer Health Information / standards
  • Consumer Health Information / statistics & numerical data*
  • Epidemics*
  • Humans
  • Internet*
  • Public Health
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Video Recording*
  • West Nile Fever / epidemiology*