Health Officials Respond Using Twitter

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WASHINGTON, (UPI) —  U.S. health officials say a free new Web-based application — MappyHealth — can track local health concerns using Twitter.

Nicole Lurie, assistant secretary for preparedness and response and a rear admiral in the U.S. Public Health Service, said local public health officials could use MappyHealth to respond quickly during an outbreak or a public health emergency and potentially even heading off a public health emergency such as a pandemic.

MappyHealth was the winning submission of 33 applicants to the challenge, “Now Trending: #Health in My Community,” sponsored by the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response, which leads the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in preparing the nation to respond to and recover from adverse health effects of emergencies.

Health officials can use data they gain through the app to complement other health surveillance systems in identifying emerging health issues and as an early warning of possible public health emergencies in a community.

“Having real-time information available in the public domain through social media like Twitter could be revolutionary for health officials watching out for the first clues to new, emerging infectious diseases in our communities and for modernizing our public health system,” Lurie said in a statement.

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