Kelsey Klemme


Bridgid O’Keefe


An Analysis of Tweets concerning H1N1


                We started our search for Tweets on H1N1 on October 5th, 2009 and continued gathering data through October 9th. We chose this topic due to the global concern/pandemic that arose concerning this unfamiliar strain of influenza A that was first discovered in April of 2009 (  This particular strain of the flu was first discovered in children during March of 2009. Mexico had hundreds of infected individuals before this particular subdivision of the flu before it was recognized and considered a legitimate problem that needed to be addressed (





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Our search for the term “H1N1” produced 2,250 tweets that dated back to September 30th, 2009. 298 of these tweets were reply topics to another Twitter user, 1458 included a link in their tweet, 433 of Twitter users were sending a direct message, and 187 were making H1N1 a trending topic. Flu realtime is the most active poster on the topic of swine flu with 39 posts related to the topic. Over the course from October 5th to October 8th, there was a steady climb in the amount of posts that were being made on the topic, and a sudden drop then from the 8th to the 9th. We assume that the spike in communication was due to the fact that that was when some of the first flu vaccines were beginning to arrive, and that over the following three days people were discussing whether or not they would be getting a shot, the advantages and disadvantages, or merely tweeting about the fact that a vaccine was available. However, the topic of H1N1 precipitated a long time ago, so we believe that there is less activity now because the initial desire to tweet about the swine flu has decreased.

                What is interesting about the topic of H1N1 on Twitter is how it has changed in nature. Only 231 of the posts are about deaths related to the virus, which is only 10% of the stream from the last five days. Rather, the discussion includes links to websites informing people about the H1N1 vaccination, with 267 Tweets about the H1N1 vaccination. It seems that most of the posts being made are in relation to someone announcing they have H1N1 or wondering if they have symptoms of it. It is interesting that the function of Twitter when discussing the H1N1 virus has become more of a public announcement to friends and family that someone has the swine flu; using it like a mass message to warn others that they are sick.

                The reply topic method used on Twitter in relation to the H1N1 virus did not have much variety. While counting the re-tweets there were about 25 conversational re-tweets, talking about topics such as “I have Swine Flu”, “My brother has the Swine Flu”. There were 32 warning re-tweets saying things such as “The vaccine could harm you” or “Swine Flu has killed so many”. Also, there were 44 educational re-tweets that discussed where to get the vaccine or how to learn more about the Swine Flu. The Majority of our re-tweets fall under an ‘other’ category because the majority of the tweets were in another language. There was a total of 125 ‘other’ re-tweets and 57 of those were in another language. During our research we discovered a large number of foreign Tweets being re-tweeted to users, and a majority of these being in Spanish. We believe that since the virus was first prominent in that region that people there are still the most concerned because of the lack of quality in their medical care and how easily it is for the virus to spread in poverty. One of the Tweets that we translated said “My taxi driver said he gave H1N1 a cure with prayers ‘God is bigger than any virus’”, so even in other countries the topic of H1N1 is much lighter than it used to be. The rest of the re-tweets were mostly public service announcements to friends that they have the H1N1 virus or jokingly asking them if they had it. Others were responses about the vaccine, directly mostly at news sources if they had questions about it. Our research showed that H1N1 on Twitter, although still a trending topic often, has declined in the seriousness of Tweets and people discuss it mostly with friends or if they questions regarding the vaccine.

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