Consumers' Use of the Internet for Swine Flu Info Raises Concerns

Health experts say that although the Internet can be an effective way for consumers to obtain up-to-the-minute information about the symptoms and spread of swine flu, it raises concerns about the quality of online information, USA Today reports.

Search engines Yahoo and Google have seen significant spikes in swine flu searches this week. Meanwhile, swine flu-related posts on microblogging Web site Twitter exceeded 10,000 an hour on Tuesday, according to Mashable.com.

Gabe Kelen -- a physician and chair of the emergency department at Johns Hopkins University -- said, "A huge number of people at home have the ability to search for disease symptoms," adding that the quality of the information "largely depends on what sites they go to."

Robert Kim-Farley -- a professor at University of California-Los Angeles' School of Public Health and director of communicable disease control and prevention at the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health -- said that useful sites offer "a nice opportunity to get factual and good information through the Internet."

However, he said, "There is a lot of chatter that's going on where people can make anecdotal comments -- those that aren't so substantial in the science" (Gillum, USA Today, 4/28).


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