If you were to call your boss and let him know that you are not going to clock in to the office in a week’s time because of the flu, chances are he will do a double take on the calendar and make sure it is April 1, or figure out that you have taken over the mantle of being the practical joker in the office. Unfortunately for your boss, you are dead serious, as you subscribe to this speculation by a researcher who believes that Twitter could be used as a tool to track disease. Right now, researchers have started to use the site to track how flu spreads through New York, relying on a ‘heatmap’ of users who complain of falling sick.
In the image above, low outbreak levels are indicated by the color blue, while yellow and red will denote large numbers of people tweeting that they are ill. This is not some random data pulled from a pie in the sky, but Adam Sadilek from the University of Rochester and his team actually took the time and trouble to analyze 4.4 million GPS-tagged Tweets from over 600,000 users in New York City, taking a whole month’s data in 2010 and crunching it.