Social media has an amazing ability to rapidly disseminate information to a large audience base, and one of the best demonstrations of that ability comes when there is a health scare. Over the last ten years, we have had a number of health scares. As social media has evolved, so has the ways it has been used to communicate these health risks.
Some of the communications are simply informative. Trans-Fats raise bad cholesterol and lower good cholesterol. Toys coming out of China may have lead paint on them. Bisphenol A (BPA) is bad for you. Too much time on your cell phone might cause radiation exposure.
Other communications through social media are more severe. They inform where serious health risks have been discovered, how contagious these risks are, and what to look for. Whether or not the health risk is determined to be a pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO).
Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus (MRSA) has been discussed on social media because of how difficult it is to treat. Social media has been used to communicate swine flu (H1N1), bird flu (H5N1), and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) warnings such as regions where it is likely to contract one of these viruses. The most recent example of social media use with a health scare is the Zika virus. Social media first started reporting on the dangers of the Zika virus to pregnant women and where the virus was currently known to be (Brazil). With the Olympics coming up though, the focus has moved to how the athletes can protect themselves. Most recently, Facebook and Twitter have been exploding on which athletes are skipping the Olympics due to fears of the Zika virus.
Keep in mind though, that anyone can post anything on Facebook and Twitter. If the information about the latest health risk you are looking at isn’t from the government, WHO, or another credible source, it is no better than Wikipedia.
In short, social media is a great resource for getting rudimentary information about a potential health scare, but always go to the source for the most current and accurate information.
For more information about the Zika Virus, please visit the following links: