Facebook faster for food poisoning outbreaks

SOCIAL networking sites like Facebook provide the ideal tool for public health officers to use in investigating outbreaks of food-borne disease, researchers say.

Reports of gastrointestinal illness following a wedding reception in Chicago, USA, were investigated much more quickly through Facebook surveys than through questionnaires distributed via email, the researchers said.

Staff of the Illinois Department of Public Health found that 41 guests responded to the survey distributed through Facebook compared to only 14 who responded via an emailed survey link.

Importantly, Facebook users responded overnight, in just under nine hours, whereas those responding via email took nearly two days.

“On the basis of these [Facebook] responses, health department staff were able to identify the implicated foods the day after the questionnaires were distributed,” the health officers said.

Overall, Facebook respondents were younger