Website Tracks Illness Through Social Media Posts

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Central Nebraska and many other areas are experiencing a peak season for influenza cases.

Staying healthy is a tough task, but in addition to getting your flu shot perhaps social media sites might be the next tool that keeps you from getting sick. is something very new and looks kind of like a weather map.

It forecasts when and where people are getting sick.

When several reports appear nearby each other at approximately the same time they are grouped as potential storm activity represented by the orange polygons and lines.

"I think that is an interesting idea being from the 20-something generation it's definitely new especially with all of the advent of social media," said Grand Island Resident Amos Anson.

Here's how it works. Everyday people around the world update social media sites like Facebook and Twitter when they or someone close to them get sick.

When this information is made publicly available by the user and contains location information, the website is able to track and map the data.

Katie Wichman is the Community Health Nurse at the Central District Health Department. She says the influenza season is at a peak this year.

She says when people are indoors and cooped up they spread sickness easier.

"And in groups because that's how everything spreads is between people," said Community Health Nurse Katie Wichman.

Wichman says the website could help forecast sickness, but it depends on if people are reporting accurate information..

"Social media has been pretty popular throughout the last few years so that might be a hit," said Wichman.

Others in the area agree saying it's worth a look.

"It's definitely something new that people will share," said Anson.

The Central District Health Department says they are pushing the influenza shot this year, because of the increase in cases.