Some 400 million Tweets are posted on Twitter every day, and that vast flow of information is beginning to offer public health researchers new and timely insights into the patterns of disease and influenza, according to new research led by Mark Dredze of The Human Language Technology Center of Excellence (HLTCOE) and Department of Computer Science at The Johns Hopkins University.

Moreover, the researchers' real-time method of flu tracking, based on the analysis of 5,000 publicly available tweets per minute, appears to track closely with government disease data that takes much longer to compile, according to Johns Hopkins.

Since May 2009, Johns Hopkins researchers have been monitoring Twitter messages related to about 15 diseases. But they've been closely following flu-related tweets since early 2011.

Using those tweets, the researchers developed two infographics of the United States that illustrate the stark differences between the 2011-2012 mild flu season and the much higher incidence of the virus in the winter of 2012-2013.

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Lenna Garibian is a MarketingProfs research writer and a marketing consultant in the tech industry, where she develops engaging content that builds thought leadership and revenue opportunities for clients. She's held marketing and research positions at eRPortal Software, GAP Inc., Stanford University, and the IMF. Reach Lenna via Twitter @LennaAnahid and LinkedIn.