Social Media Gets Strep Throat Epidemic Under Control

July 25, 2013
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In the past, epidemiology experts took a lot of hours to determine how and where health epidemics would come from.

In the past, epidemiology experts took a lot of hours to determine how and where health epidemics would come from.

social media and epidemicsNow, with the help of new communication technology – specifically social media –epidemiologists can quickly identify and solve health outbreaks. In one example, Facebook users in Minnesota were able to identify tainted food as the source of a strep throat outbreak.

According to a recent report published by the Clinical Infectious Diseases, 18 out of 63 people who attended a high school dance banquet started to develop strep throat within three days of the banquet.

After seeing a large number of posts on Facebook related to strep throat, one parent alerted the Minnesota health department that this wasn’t just a coincidence. The department then conducted phone interviews with attendees and their family members and analyzed DNA from strep bacteria samples.

They eventually determined the strep came from a pasta dish eaten by many of the party-goers at the banquet. The health department also learned that this particular pasta dish was prepared by a parent who reported having strep throat three weeks earlier.

Social media may have not cured the disease, but it did help establish that the disease was caused by an infectious agent that affected many and was not a random incident.