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EPA to mine Twitter for tweets on diarrhea, vomiting, flu

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Showing that there is no end to what the Obama administration will spy on, the Environmental Protection Agency has developed a plan to chart the flu by mining the social website Twitter for tweets on diarrhea, vomiting, nausea and the bug.

The agency is shopping for a company that can search for those terms and several others to determine how many people in the country are suffering from “acute gastroenteritis infections,” or AGI, and where the hot spots are. The agency wants to compare the tweet results with figures from the Centers for Disease Control.

“The following example search terms are considered evidence of AGI: Stomach flu, stomach bug, stomach ache, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea,” said the EPA’s notice to contractors just posted.

Explaining the plan, EPA said: “The vendor will use these terms and attributes to obtain Twitter messages that will be evaluated by U.S. EPA human health specialists to determine if they are indicative of AGI. The number of tweets from each search will be verified by the vendor and in-house U.S. EPA human health specialists. In-house statistical analysis will be performed to determine if the tweets correlate with epidemiological data from the CDC.”

There’s an obvious rush to get bids in this month, the middle of the flu season, which the CDC reports has been especially hard on the young this year.

Paul Bedard, the Washington Examiner's "Washington Secrets" columnist, can be contacted at pbedard@washingtonexaminer.com.
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