Viral Epidemiology: Tracking Viruses with Smartphones and Social Media

Kaitlin Rainwater-Lovett, Isabel Rodriguez-Barraquer, William J. Moss

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


The science of epidemiology has been developed over the last 200. years, using traditional methods to describe the distribution of diseases by person, place, and time. However, in the last several decades, a new set of technologies has become available, based on the methods of computer sciences, systems biology, and the extraordinary powers of the Internet. Technological and analytical advances can enhance traditional epidemiological methods to study the emergence, epidemiology, and transmission dynamics of viruses and associated diseases. Social media are increasingly used to detect the emergence and geographic spread of viral disease outbreaks. Large-scale population movement can be estimated using satellite imagery and mobile phone use, and fine-scale population movement can be tracked using global positioning system loggers, allowing estimation of transmission pathways and contact patterns at different spatial scales. Advances in genomic sequencing and bioinformatics permit more accurate determination of viral evolution and the construction of transmission networks, also at different spatial and temporal scales. Phylodynamics links evolutionary and epidemiological processes to better understand viral transmission patterns. More complex and realistic mathematical models of virus transmission within human and animal populations, including detailed agent-based models, are increasingly used to predict transmission patterns and the impact of control interventions such as vaccination and quarantine. In this chapter, we will briefly review traditional epidemiological methods and then describe the new technologies with some examples of their application.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationViral Pathogenesis
Subtitle of host publicationFrom Basics to Systems Biology: Third Edition
PublisherElsevier Inc.
Number of pages12
ISBN (Print)9780128009642
StatePublished - 2016


  • Agent-based models
  • Epidemiology
  • Google
  • Molecular epidemiology
  • Phylodynamics
  • Population movement
  • Social media
  • Spatial epidemiology
  • Transmission networks

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Immunology and Microbiology


Dive into the research topics of 'Viral Epidemiology: Tracking Viruses with Smartphones and Social Media'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this