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baltimoresun.com

Social media won't stop infectious disease [Letter]

12:00 PM EST, December 6, 2013

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The problem with using social media to predict the outbreak of infectious diseases lies within accuracy, demographics and how much people are willing to share ("Social media can help contain illness," Dec 2).

Recently, more and more people have been making their social media profiles private in fear of their public status being used against them. Careers and futures have been ruined because of a single social media post, something that would never have occurred in decades past. Furthermore, using social media to predict outbreak of illness is inaccurate due to the user demographics being dominated by 18-to-29-year-olds who are not at a high risk for getting sick compared to the elderly and children who as a group do not use social media as frequently.

Although the author acknowledges the inaccuracy of Sickweather due to people's current connectivity and engagement, there is still no way to rule out social media users misdiagnosing themselves or exaggerating their symptoms. Also, there is no evidence to show that the awareness of an infectious disease outbreak will slow its spread. People will continue to go to work and school and be exposed to potential threats — even if some iPhone app tells them there is an outbreak.

Michael Bent, Derwood

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