The Food Standards Agency (FSA) has revealed that by monitoring Twitter posts, alerts can be raised to illness outbreaks. Could this be used to avoid holiday illnesses?
Testing included analysis of the hashtags used by people suffering from norovirus. The FSA then used software to compare spikes in Twitter usage and trends with medical data, finding the spikes fitted with illness outbreaks at the time. The results suggest that this method of surveillance could help to detect illness outbreaks and foreworn hospitals so that they may prepare.
Professor Guy Poppy, chief scientific adviser to the Food Standards Authority, stated, “Twitter could be a good way of picking up early indications of issues surrounding food.
“We can use it to provide a causal link between people tweeting and the outbreaks happening.
“The next stage is to start predicting outbreaks and then working with organisations such as the NHS towards what we can do about that.
“This can help prepare hospitals and we are working with PhD students to explore what else we might be able to use the information for in terms of food and business.”
Would This Affect Your Travelling Plans?
This use of surveillance could not only forewarn hospitals, but could alert people to illness outbreaks when planning trips overseas.
In October 2015 we blogged on the redesign of an online tool that can be used to search data on foodborne disease outbreaks in the US – something that Europe could certainly benefit from. For more information on this, read our previous blog here. Many people take to review sites such as TripAdvisor to look up hygiene reviews before booking flights and accommodation, but whereas this may tip you off to past experiences of health and safety at a hotel or resort, it may not necessarily alert you to an illness outbreak at that destination before it’s too late.
The medical cost of holiday illness is also something to be considered. Though no-one plans for food poisoning, warnings of illness outbreaks could well be reason to ensure you purchase travel insurance ahead of your trip.
Whereas travel insurance can cover the cost of any medical expenses incurred whilst abroad, most policies won’t compensate you for time off work once you’re home. This is where legal advice from travel litigation lawyers is necessary when it comes to making a holiday illness compensation claim.
Simon Weilding is a travel lawyer at Slater and Gordon in Manchester.
If you suffer food poisoning whilst overseas, our no win, no fee solicitors can help you with your claim for compensation.
Call Slater and Gordon Lawyers on freephone 0800 916 9046 or contact us online. From outside the UK please call +44 20 7657 1555.