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Misinformation about antibiotics can travel to large audience via Twitter: study
Date:3/30/2010

The full list of tweets was further explored for cases of misunderstanding or abuse with a search for the following combinations: "flu + antibiotic(s)," "cold + antibiotic(s)," "leftover + antibiotic(s)," "share + antibiotic(s)," and "extra + antibiotic(s)".

The most common category was "general use," including a range of updates about taking antibiotics, often simply mentioning the number of days remaining on a prescription and a desire that the antibiotics begin helping soon. The second most common category was "advice and information." Some updates included the transfer of personal advice or information, such as "get antibiotics if its [sic] serious" or "Garlic generally good, but not specific to strep" The third most prevalent category was "side effects/ negative reactions," which included a variety of complaints and side effects from taking the medication. Examples of side effects ranged from the general, such as, "those antibiotics made me want to die," to the more specific, "I am on antibiotics that make me want to vomit." Negative reactions generally revolved around inconveniences, such as not being able to drink alcohol or sensitivity to the sun.

The authors also found that while the category of "misunderstanding and/or misuse" only comprised about 700 of the more than 52,000 tweets, such misunderstandings could easily spread to a large audience due to the nature of information flow through the Twitter network. The most popular word combination in this category was "flu + antibiotics," with 345 status updates including misinformation reaching a total of 172,571 followers. The next most popular word combination was "cold + antibiotics," with 302 status updates reaching a total of 850,375 followers.

"As people change how they interact, going from passive consumption to active creation of content on the Internet, social networks have become increasingly important sources of information," said Cathryn Murphy, RN, PhD, CIC, APIC 2010 p
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Contact: Liz Garman
egarman@apic.org
202-454-2604
Elsevier Health Sciences
Source:Eurekalert

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