Social media can be an effective tool for epidemiological surveillance, according to a new Italian scientific study, confirming something that other research has shown.
And this by studying the posts that were circulating on Twitter about the new "pneumonia" in Europe from a very early time, well before the official outbreak of the pandemic Covid-19.
Before the first cases of coronavirus in Europe became known at the end of January 2020, as broadcast by AMPE, there were signals on Twitter that something strange was happening in the field of health. In fact, more than 13.000 messages about pneumonia came - as their geo-location revealed - from those very areas that would later be most affected by the pandemic (Lombardy, Italy, Madrid, Spain, Ile-de-France, etc.) .
Researchers at the IMT School of Advanced Studies in Luca, led by Professor Massimo Riccaboni, published in Nature's Scientific Reports, analyzed Twitter posts in seven European countries between December 2019 and January 2020, finding several tweets that talked about some pneumonia (at that time the disease was not yet known as Covid-19).
Its official recognition Covid-19 as a serious communicable disease occurred on January 21, 2020, but already on Twitter abnormally increased reports of pneumonia and dry cough, compared to previous years. For example, in Italy, where the first restrictive measures were taken on February 22, from the first days and weeks of January there were steadily increasing messages on Twitter about pneumonia, clearly more than in the first weeks of 2019.
France showed a similar trend on Twitter, as did other countries (Spain, Britain, Poland) with a delay of about two weeks compared to Italy.