Assessment of H1N1 questions and answers posted on the Web

Sujin Kim, Thomas Pinkerton, Nithya Ganesh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


Background: A novel strain of human influenza A (H1N1) posed a serious pandemic threat worldwide during 2009. The public's fear of pandemic flu often raises awareness and discussion of such events. Objectives: The goal of this study was to characterize major topical matters of H1N1 questions and answers raised by the online question and answer community Yahoo! Answers during H1N1 outbreak. Methods: The study used Text Mining for SPSS Clementine (v.12; SPSS Inc., Chicago, IL) to extract the major concepts of the collected Yahoo! questions and answers. The original collections were retrieved using "H1N1" in search, keyword and then filtered for only "resolved questions" in the "health" category submitted within the past 2 years. Results: The most frequently formed categories were as follows: general health (health, disease, medicine, investigation, evidence, problem), flu-specific terms (H1N1, swine, shot, fever, cold, infective, throat), and nonmedical issues (feel, North American, people, child, nations, government, states, help, doubt, emotion). The study found that URL data are fairly predictable: those providing answers are divided between ones dedicated to giving trustworthy information - from news organizations and the government, for instance - and those looking to espouse a more biased point of view. Conclusion: Critical evaluation of online sources should be taught to select the quality of information and improve health literacy. The challenges of pandemic prevention and control, therefore, demand both e-surveillance and better informed Netizens.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)211-217
Number of pages7
JournalAmerican Journal of Infection Control
Issue number3
StatePublished - Apr 2012


  • Consumer health information
  • Influenza A FAQ, H1N1 surveillance
  • Influenza pandemic
  • Medical Internet research
  • PubMed
  • Text mining

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Epidemiology
  • Health Policy
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Infectious Diseases


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