People turn to Twitter for CPR information: study

Nov 20 (Reuters) - Amid snarky comments and links to cat

videos, some Twitter users turn to the social network to find

and post information on health issues like cardiac arrest and

CPR, according to a U.S. study.

Over a month, researchers found 15,234 messages on Twitter

that included specific information about resuscitation and

cardiac arrest, said the study published in the journal

Resuscitation.

"From a science standpoint, we wanted to know if we can

reliably find information on a public health topic, or is

(Twitter) just a place where people describe what they ate that

day," said Raina Merchant, the study's lead author and a

professor at the Department of Emergency Medicine at the

University of Pennsylvania.

According to the researchers, they found people using

Twitter to send and receive a wide variety of information on CPR

and cardiac arrest, including their personal experiences,

questions and current events.

Some researchers and organizations already use Twitter for

public health matters, including tracking the 2009 H1N1 "swine

flu" pandemic and finding the source of the Haitian cholera

outbreak, the researchers said.

For the study, the researchers created a Twitter search for

key terms, such as CPR, AED (automatic external defibrillators),

resuscitation and sudden death.

Between April and May 2011, their search returned 62,163

tweets, which were whittled down to 15,324 messages that

contained specific information about cardiac arrest and

resuscitation.

Only 7 percent of the tweets were about specific cardiac

arrest events, such as a user saying they just saw a man being

resuscitated, or a user asking for prayers for a sick family

member.

About 44 percent of the tweets were about performing CPR and

using an AED. Those types of tweets included information on

rules about keeping AEDs in businesses and questions about how

to resuscitate a person.

The rest of the tweets were about education, research and

news events, such as links to articles about celebrities going

into cardiac arrest.

The vast majority of the Twitter users send fewer than three

tweets about cardiac arrest or CPR throughout the month. Users

that sent more tweets typically had more followers - people who

subscribe to their messages - and often worked in a health-care

related field.

About 13 percent of the tweets were re-sent, or retweeted,

by other users. The most popular retweeted messages were about

celebrity-related cardiac arrest news, such as an AED being used

to revive a fan at a Lady Gaga concert.

"I think the pilot (study) illustrated for us that there is

an opportunity to potentially provide research and information

for people in real time about cardiac arrest and resuscitation,"

Marchant said.

"I can imagine in the future we will see systems that would

automatically respond to tweets of individual users. Twitter is

a really powerful tool, and we're just beginning to understand

its abilities."

SOURCE: http://bit.ly/T2bj7u

(Reporting from New York by Andrew Seaman at Reuters Health;

editing by Elaine)

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