Social media and outbreaks of emerging infectious diseases: A systematic review of literature. Academic Article uri icon


  • BACKGROUND: The public often turn to social media for information during emerging infectious diseases (EIDs) outbreaks. This study identified the major approaches and assessed the rigors in published research articles on EIDs and social media. METHODS: We searched 5 databases for published journal articles on EIDs and social media. We then evaluated these articles in terms of EIDs studied, social media examined, theoretical frameworks, methodologic approaches, and research findings. RESULTS: Thirty articles were included in the analysis (published between January 1, 2010, and March 1, 2016). EIDs that received most scholarly attention were H1N1 (or swine flu, n=15), Ebola virus (n=10), and H7N9 (or avian flu/bird flu, n=2). Twitter was the most often studied social media (n=17), followed by YouTube (n = 6), Facebook (n = 6), and blogs (n = 6). Three major approaches in this area of inquiry are identified: (1) assessment of the public's interest in and responses to EIDs, (2) examination of organizations' use of social media in communicating EIDs, and (3) evaluation of the accuracy of EID-related medical information on social media. CONCLUSIONS: Although academic studies of EID communication on social media are on the rise, they still suffer from a lack of theorization and a need for more methodologic rigor.

published proceedings

  • Am J Infect Control

altmetric score

  • 17.2

author list (cited authors)

  • Tang, L. u., Bie, B., Park, S., & Zhi, D.

citation count

  • 138

complete list of authors

  • Tang, Lu||Bie, Bijie||Park, Sung-Eun||Zhi, Degui

publication date

  • September 2018