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Prev Med. 2018 Apr;109:58-61. doi: 10.1016/j.ypmed.2017.12.016. Epub 2017 Dec 24.

Using social media as a tool to predict syphilis.

Author information

1
Department of Family Medicine, University of California, Los Angeles, California, USA. Electronic address: Sdyoung@mednet.ucla.edu.
2
Department of Biostatistics, Fielding School of Public Health, University of California, Los Angeles, CA, USA.
3
Department of Biostatistics, Fielding School of Public Health, University of California, Los Angeles, CA, USA. Electronic address: Robweiss@ucla.edu.
4
Division of STD Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, GA, USA. Electronic address: Etorrone@cdc.gov.
5
Division of STD Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, GA, USA. Electronic address: Saral@cdc.gov.

Abstract

Syphilis rates have been rapidly rising in the United States. New technologies, such as social media, might be used to anticipate and prevent the spread of disease. Because social media data collection is easy and inexpensive, integration of social media data into syphilis surveillance may be a cost-effective surveillance strategy, especially in low-resource regions. People are increasingly using social media to discuss health-related issues, such as sexual risk behaviors, allowing social media to be a potential tool for public health and medical research. This study mined Twitter data to assess whether social media could be used to predict syphilis cases in 2013 based on 2012 data. We collected 2012 and 2013 county-level primary and secondary (P&S) and early latent syphilis cases reported to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, along with >8500 geolocated tweets in the United States that were filtered to include sexual risk-related keywords, including colloquial terms for intercourse. We assessed the relationship between syphilis-related tweets and actual case reports by county, controlling for socioeconomic indicators and prior year syphilis cases. We found a significant positive relationship between tweets and cases of P&S and early latent syphilis. This study shows that social media may be an additional tool to enhance syphilis prediction and surveillance.

KEYWORDS:

Social media; Syphilis; Twitter

PMID:
29278678
PMCID:
PMC5843531
DOI:
10.1016/j.ypmed.2017.12.016
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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