Some researchers are considering tracking flu outbreaks with Twitter, reports CNN.

The tweets are used to predict the amount of flu cases and the virus’s peak. They also provide information about the flu itself, such as whether it’s more contagious than in past years. The researchers say their model is the first to simulate the entire population of the United States.

Over two flu seasons, the researchers found that their model reliably predicted the number of cases and the spread of the virus six weeks in advance when compared to traditional systems for monitoring the flu.

The new method could help public health agencies plan ahead to distribute medical resources. They could also start campaigns earlier to encourage people to get a flu shot or take other preventative measures.

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