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1.  Scoping Review on Search Queries and Social Media for Disease Surveillance: A Chronology of Innovation 
The threat of a global pandemic posed by outbreaks of influenza H5N1 (1997) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS, 2002), both diseases of zoonotic origin, provoked interest in improving early warning systems and reinforced the need for combining data from different sources. It led to the use of search query data from search engines such as Google and Yahoo! as an indicator of when and where influenza was occurring. This methodology has subsequently been extended to other diseases and has led to experimentation with new types of social media for disease surveillance.
The objective of this scoping review was to formally assess the current state of knowledge regarding the use of search queries and social media for disease surveillance in order to inform future work on early detection and more effective mitigation of the effects of foodborne illness.
Structured scoping review methods were used to identify, characterize, and evaluate all published primary research, expert review, and commentary articles regarding the use of social media in surveillance of infectious diseases from 2002-2011.
Thirty-two primary research articles and 19 reviews and case studies were identified as relevant. Most relevant citations were peer-reviewed journal articles (29/32, 91%) published in 2010-11 (28/32, 88%) and reported use of a Google program for surveillance of influenza. Only four primary research articles investigated social media in the context of foodborne disease or gastroenteritis. Most authors (21/32 articles, 66%) reported that social media-based surveillance had comparable performance when compared to an existing surveillance program. The most commonly reported strengths of social media surveillance programs included their effectiveness (21/32, 66%) and rapid detection of disease (21/32, 66%). The most commonly reported weaknesses were the potential for false positive (16/32, 50%) and false negative (11/32, 34%) results. Most authors (24/32, 75%) recommended that social media programs should primarily be used to support existing surveillance programs.
The use of search queries and social media for disease surveillance are relatively recent phenomena (first reported in 2006). Both the tools themselves and the methodologies for exploiting them are evolving over time. While their accuracy, speed, and cost compare favorably with existing surveillance systems, the primary challenge is to refine the data signal by reducing surrounding noise. Further developments in digital disease surveillance have the potential to improve sensitivity and specificity, passively through advances in machine learning and actively through engagement of users. Adoption, even as supporting systems for existing surveillance, will entail a high level of familiarity with the tools and collaboration across jurisdictions.
PMCID: PMC3785982  PMID: 23896182
disease; surveillance; social media; review
2.  A Randomized, Double-Blind Placebo Controlled Trial of Balapiravir, a Polymerase Inhibitor, in Adult Dengue Patients 
The Journal of Infectious Diseases  2012;207(9):1442-1450.
Background. Dengue is the most common arboviral infection of humans. There are currently no specific treatments for dengue. Balapiravir is a prodrug of a nucleoside analogue (called R1479) and an inhibitor of hepatitis C virus replication in vivo.
Methods. We conducted in vitro experiments to determine the potency of balapiravir against dengue viruses and then an exploratory, dose-escalating, randomized placebo-controlled trial in adult male patients with dengue with <48 hours of fever.
Results. The clinical and laboratory adverse event profile in patients receiving balapiravir at doses of 1500 mg (n = 10) or 3000 mg (n = 22) orally for 5 days was similar to that of patients receiving placebo (n = 32), indicating balapiravir was well tolerated. However, twice daily assessment of viremia and daily assessment of NS1 antigenemia indicated balapiravir did not measurably alter the kinetics of these virological markers, nor did it reduce the fever clearance time. The kinetics of plasma cytokine concentrations and the whole blood transcriptional profile were also not attenuated by balapiravir treatment.
Conclusions. Although this trial, the first of its kind in dengue, does not support balapiravir as a candidate drug, it does establish a framework for antiviral treatment trials in dengue and provides the field with a clinically evaluated benchmark molecule.
Clinical Trials Registration. NCT01096576.
PMCID: PMC3610419  PMID: 22807519
Dengue; therapeutics; clinical trial; anti-viral
3.  A qualitative exploration of the perceptions and information needs of public health inspectors responsible for food safety 
BMC Public Health  2010;10:345.
In Ontario, local public health inspectors play an important frontline role in protecting the public from foodborne illness. This study was an in-depth exploration of public health inspectors' perceptions of the key food safety issues in public health, and their opinions and needs with regards to food safety information resources.
Four focus group discussions were conducted with public health inspectors from the Central West region of Ontario, Canada during June and July, 2008. A questioning route was used to standardize qualitative data collection. Audio recordings of sessions were transcribed verbatim and data-driven content analysis was performed.
A total of 23 public health inspectors participated in four focus group discussions. Five themes emerged as key food safety issues: time-temperature abuse, inadequate handwashing, cross-contamination, the lack of food safety knowledge by food handlers and food premise operators, and the lack of food safety information and knowledge about specialty foods (i.e., foods from different cultures). In general, participants reported confidence with their current knowledge of food safety issues and foodborne pathogens. Participants highlighted the need for a central source for food safety information, access to up-to-date food safety information, resources in different languages, and additional food safety information on specialty foods.
The information gathered from these focus groups can provide a basis for the development of resources that will meet the specific needs of public health inspectors involved in protecting and promoting food safety.
PMCID: PMC2905330  PMID: 20553592

Results 1-3 (3)