Virtual Zika transmission after the first U.S. case: who said what and how it spread on Twitter

Santosh Vijaykumar, Glen Nowak, Itai Himelboim, Yan Jin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

49 Citations (Scopus)
38 Downloads (Pure)


Background: This paper goes beyond detecting specific themes within Zika-related chatter on Twitter, to identify the key actors who influence the diffusive process through which some themes are moreamplified than others are.Methods: We collected all Zika-related tweets during the three months immediately after the first U.S. case of Zika. Following categorization into twelve themes, a cross-section of tweets were grouped into weekly datasets to capture 12 amplifier/user groups and analysed by fouramplification modes: mentions, retweets, talkers, and twitter-wide amplifier.
Results: We analysed 3,057,130 tweets in the US and categorized 4,997 users. The most talked about theme was Zika transmission (~58%). News media, public health institutions and grassroots users were the mostvisible and frequent sources and disseminators of Zika-related Twitter content. Grassroots users were the primary source and disseminators of conspiracy theories.
Discussion & Conclusions: Social media analytics enable public health institutions to quickly learn what information is being disseminated, and by whom, regarding infectious diseases. Such information can help publichealth institutions identify and engage with news media and other active information providers. It also provides insights into media and public concerns, accuracy of information on Twitter, and information gaps thatmay exist. The study identifies implications for pandemic preparedness and response in the digital era and presents the agenda for future research and practice.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)549-557
JournalAmerican Journal of Infection Control
Issue number5
Early online date4 Jan 2018
Publication statusPublished - May 2018


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