SARS and Bird Flu fightback includes surveillance of disease rumours. Nature.com reports:
“Listening to gossip may sound like a flimsy means of spotting potentially devastating microbes and viruses. But the World Health Organization (WHO) already uses ‘rumour surveillance’ to monitor online media for early signs of epidemics, including ebola, cholera and severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS).”
A study published this month is one of the first to show that this type of scrutiny actually works. Epidemiologist Gina Samaan of the WHO’s Western Pacific Regional Office in Manila and her colleagues examined whether a 2004 effort to detect rumours of bird flu helped combat the disease as it whipped through poultry flocks in Asia.
Of 40 rumours from websites, newspapers, e-mails and experts, nine were found to be true, and several prompted action that may have helped to stem the disease’s spread, the researchers report in Emerging Infectious Diseases.
The story is here.