Can Social Media Help Prevent The Spread Of Foodborne Illnesses?

Twitter is commonly known for 140-character updates about people's lives. From celebrities to news sources, it's a great way to be briefed on what's happening in the world. The site could also have another beneficial function: tracking down foodborne illnesses. According to a post on Science Daily, new research shows that social media may be able to help experts keep surveillance on food-related illnesses.

Each year, an estimated 55-105 million people experience food-related illnesses, such as salmonella. Social media could be a great way to keep the public informed, as well as seeing where the food poisoning is spreading. It's believed that when these illnesses are tracked quickly, it can help prevent others from becoming sick.

Researchers at Washington University's St. Louis' Brown School found that using Twitter can help the health departments interact with the public and help keep them informed about such illnesses. Over the course of 10 months in Chicago, Jenine Harris, an assistant professor, analyzed what happened when a Twitter account responded to the public's complaints about potential food poisoning cases. It wound up being an effective tool, leading to inspection of restaurants in the area.

Harris says,

Collaboration between public health professionals and the public via social media might improve foodborne illness surveillance and response.

For more about the dangers of foodborne illnesses (including which foods are most likely to cause food poisoning), check out the "Delicious But Deadly" story from the May issue of Choices by clicking on the image below:

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To learn more about Choices magazine, click here!