Updated on 20 November 2014
People start searching disease-related information in Wikipedia, even before they seek medical attention
Singapore: According to study published in PLOS computational biology, global experts are now looking at Wikipedia as an effective weapon in combating and preventing global epidemics. The study said that the open source encyclopedia may help in predicting disease outbreaks.
Researchers from the Los Alamos National Laboratory in the US have examined 14 infectious disease outbreaks and used Wikipedia traffic data to compare if they could predict upsurges of diseases. Scientists noted that Wikipedia page views peaked 28 days before the actual outbreak.
Lead researcher, Ms Sara Del Valle from Los Alamos National Laboratory, said, "Wikipedia can act as a global forecasting system and change the way we respond to epidemics. People start searching disease-related information in Wikipedia, even before they seek medical attention."
This is not the first time that researchers are harnessing social websites to prevent diseases. Earlier during the flu outbreaks, a computer science professor at Southern Louisiana University had utilized the Twitter's constant stream of updates to track flu outbreaks with a 95 percent success rate.
Even Google had tested its disease prediction capabilities by introducing Google flu trends. The program tracked words like flu, cough, and fever to make predictions.