December 21, 2014

Tweet It: Food Poisoning

If you don’t tweet, you may want to join in, but not just to publicize your most recent clothing purchase or job promotion. Twitter may be a new tool for tracking food poisoning outbreaks.

An outbreak of norovirus among students at the Canadian University Press’s 74th National Conference was tweeted live on January 14. After dinner, delegates began experiencing the symptoms of food poisoning (mainly nausea and vomiting) and the tweets started popping up. The outbreak sickened 61 people, more than 20% of the attendees.

Twitter seemed to be the best place for students to get real time updates, since the coordinators of the event were apparently unprepared for a food poisoning outbreak. Tweets were reporting who was ill and giving advice to those who were sick, including listing serious symptoms and recommending when a visit to the hospital was in order.

Live-tweeting epidemics may be another tool in the epidemiologists’ toolbox. Scientists can compare Twitter data with other outbreak information to compile patterns about an outbreak. Officials think the NASH 74 outbreak wasn’t related to food, since some of the sufferers didn’t attend the dinner.

Consumers can also follow the CDC, FDA, FSIS, and the FDA on Twitter for breaking news on recalls and outbreaks. Sign up and stay informed.

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