Scientists have analyzed several million tweets over the past six years and found that outbreaks of pneumonia in some regions in Europe began in January.
Researchers are confident that social media can help with epidemiological surveillance.
The timing of the spread of the virus to other countries raises big questions. So, in the spring of 2020, scientists discovered that the first carriers of SARS-CoV-2 were hospitalized in Italy at the end of January, a few weeks before the official start of the coronavirus outbreak in the country. Spanish doctors discovered something similar.
It turned out that the number of mentions of pneumonia and cough in some European countries rose sharply almost a month before the official start of the epidemic. There was nothing like this in previous years.
In the future, they will allow us to catch the first signs of new diseases and begin to fight them even before they have spread widely.
Massimo Riccaboni, Professor at the School of Advanced Studies in Lucca
Elsewhere in Europe – Poland, Spain and Britain – Twitter users began to complain unusually about lung problems about two weeks before doctors recorded the first COVID-19 outbreaks in their territory.