Can social media be an effective tool for detecting outbreaks of food-borne illness? That is the question that one project team set out to answer during 2012/2013’s Cohort X. The answer seems to be yes.
Among the team’s activities was developing and testing an app for automated Twitter monitoring for outbreaks of food poisoning and other restaurant-related illnesses in greater Chicago. A suspect Tweet triggers a response asking the person to fill-out an online complaint form if the person suspects food poisoning. The Chicago Department of Public Health then follows up.
According to the Chicago Tribune,
The health department says more than 150 Chicagoans have been contacted since the initiative, called Foodborne Chicago, began. In its first month, reports triggered 33 restaurant inspections, some of which uncovered violations, officials said.
Project team members (pictured above) included Chicago Health Commissioner Bechara Choucair, Robert Griffin of the Department of Homeland Security, Maryanne Guichard of the Washington State Department of Health, Becky McCorry of the Red Cross, Danny Sad of the United States Air Force, Cari Thomas of the United States Coast Guard, John Tommaney of Boston College, and Stephen Whitaker of Schlumberger.
Eric McNulty, faculty mentor for the group, commented, “Nothing is more gratifying than seeing an NPLI project move out of the classroom and into the real world where it can have positive impact. This team did a great job.”