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Modeling the impact of twitter on influenza epidemics

Kasia A. Pawelek Anne Oeldorf-Hirsch Libin Rong

*Corresponding author:  

MBE2014,6,1337doi:10.3934/mbe.2014.11.1337

Influenza remains a serious public-health problem worldwide. Therising popularity and scale of social networking sites such asTwitter may play an important role in detecting, affecting, andpredicting influenza epidemics. In this paper, we develop a simplemathematical model including the dynamics of ``tweets'' --- short,140-character Twitter messages that may enhance the awareness ofdisease, change individual's behavior, and reduce the transmissionof disease among a population during an influenza season. We analyzethe model by deriving the basic reproductive number and proving thestability of the steady states. A Hopf bifurcation occurs when athreshold curve is crossed, which suggests the possibility ofmultiple outbreaks of influenza. We also perform numericalsimulations, conduct sensitivity test on a few parameters related totweets, and compare modeling predictions with surveillance data ofinfluenza-like illness reported cases and the percentage of tweetsself-reporting flu during the 2009 H1N1 flu outbreak in England andWales. These results show that social media programs like Twittermay serve as a good indicator of seasonal influenza epidemics andinfluence the emergence and spread of the disease.

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Article ID   1551-0018_2014_6_1337
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