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Zika in Twitter: Temporal Variations of Locations, Actors, and Concepts

Citation

Stefanidis, Anthony; Vraga, Emily K.; Lamprianidis, Georgios; Radzikowski, Jacek R.; Delamater, Paul L.; Jacobsen, Kathryn H.; Pfoser, Dieter; Croitoru, Arie; & Crooks, Andrew T. (2017). Zika in Twitter: Temporal Variations of Locations, Actors, and Concepts. JMIR Public Health and Surveillance, 3(2), e22. PMCID: PMC5418522

Abstract

BACKGROUND: The recent Zika outbreak witnessed the disease evolving from a regional health concern to a global epidemic. During this process, different communities across the globe became involved in Twitter, discussing the disease and key issues associated with it. This paper presents a study of this discussion in Twitter, at the nexus of location, actors, and concepts. OBJECTIVE: Our objective in this study was to demonstrate the significance of 3 types of events: location related, actor related, and concept related, for understanding how a public health emergency of international concern plays out in social media, and Twitter in particular. Accordingly, the study contributes to research efforts toward gaining insights on the mechanisms that drive participation, contributions, and interaction in this social media platform during a disease outbreak.
METHODS: We collected 6,249,626 tweets referring to the Zika outbreak over a period of 12 weeks early in the outbreak (December 2015 through March 2016). We analyzed this data corpus in terms of its geographical footprint, the actors participating in the discourse, and emerging concepts associated with the issue. Data were visualized and evaluated with spatiotemporal and network analysis tools to capture the evolution of interest on the topic and to reveal connections between locations, actors, and concepts in the form of interaction networks.
RESULTS: The spatiotemporal analysis of Twitter contributions reflects the spread of interest in Zika from its original hotspot in South America to North America and then across the globe. The Centers for Disease Control and World Health Organization had a prominent presence in social media discussions. Tweets about pregnancy and abortion increased as more information about this emerging infectious disease was presented to the public and public figures became involved in this.
CONCLUSIONS: The results of this study show the utility of analyzing temporal variations in the analytic triad of locations, actors, and concepts. This contributes to advancing our understanding of social media discourse during a public health emergency of international concern.

URL

http://dx.doi.org/10.2196/publichealth.6925

Reference Type

Journal Article

Year Published

2017

Journal Title

JMIR Public Health and Surveillance

Author(s)

Stefanidis, Anthony
Vraga, Emily K.
Lamprianidis, Georgios
Radzikowski, Jacek R.
Delamater, Paul L.
Jacobsen, Kathryn H.
Pfoser, Dieter
Croitoru, Arie
Crooks, Andrew T.

PMCID

PMC5418522