Short course: Scientists use Twitter to track flu

Scientists use Twitter to track flu

NEW YORK: Researchers and computer scientists at Johns Hopkins University have devised a way to track cases of influenza across the United States using the microblogging site Twitter. Twitter is full of tweets about the flu, which has been severe and reached epidemic proportions this year, but it has been difficult to separate tweets about the flu from actual cases. "We wanted to separate hype about the flu from messages from people who truly become ill," said Mark Dredze, an assistant research professor in Johns Hopkins' department of computer science, who monitors public health trends by looking at tweets. To solve the problem, Dredze developed a screening method based on human language-processing technologies that only delivers real-time information on actual flu cases and filters out the rest of the chatter on the public tweets in the United States. Dredze said he hoped the system could be used to track the other illnesses.

'Exercise increases colon cancer survival odds'

NEW YORK: People with colon cancer who spend more time walking and fewer hours on the couch are less likely to die over the seven to eight years after being diagnosed, a new study suggests. The findings don't prove exercise itself boosts a person's survival chances, researchers said. But the pattern held even after the study team took into account how advanced patients' cancers were, their age and other aspects of their diet, lifestyle and health. Campbell's analysis included about 2,300 people who developed colon cancer out of an initial pool of 184,000 volunteers in a cancer prevention and nutrition study launched in 1992. Over eight years after their diagnosis, 846 people with colon cancer died — including 379 from cancer. Researchers found that study participants who exercised the most — equal to two and half hours of walking per week — both before and after being diagnosed were 28 to 42 percent less likely to die during the follow-up period than those who barely exercised.

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