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Holiday Illness Complaint

New App Makes Finding Sickness Outbreaks Simple

Head of International Travel Law Nick Harris

Dated: 21st March 2016

As technology has moved forwards it's taken us all along with it, meaning that the old fashioned ways of finding out if you need to be wary of a certain holiday destination due to an outbreak of food poisoning or any number of potential infections has changed too.

Not long ago you would have to wait to see a report in a national newspaper or speak to your tour operator, but as social networking sites have gained momentum we're in an age where even the online versions of newspapers can be a little bit out dated. The International Travel & Health Insurance Journal have reported on how illness forecasting company Sickweather has a new app that utilises social media aims to streamline this process.

Social Media has changed how Illness Outbreaks are reported

The majority of news that is purely reactive and reported from remote areas today begins with reports through social media websites such as Facebook or Twitter. These sites have been very important tools to those in countries where the news can be controlled, influenced or halted altogether by local authorities.

While as a news source they require equal levels of trust and scepticism, they allow users to immediately and easily report on an outbreak of disease before the press begins to report.


How Sickweather Streamlines this Process

While social media sites make finding out information on a potential outbreak very current, particularly in the case of the micro-blogging focussed twitter that allows you to search for and track events with the simple use of a hashtag (#), searching through what can be hundreds and thousands of tweets looking for specific mentions of vomiting, diarrhoea or even certain forms of infections can be a hassle.

Sickweather have produced an app that aims to take the hard work out of searching through countless social network posts, only to find irrelevant posts mixed in with the ones that you need to find.

This means that those who tweet something along the lines of "So pleased with my holiday in Ibiza, been dancing to some sick beats every night" will be filtered out in favour of "stuck in my hotel bed in Ibiza after being sick from food poisoning". This may well be the intelligent component of the Sickweather app that really makes it stand out, and it is part of what we feel will be a really beneficial tool for holiday goers; giving them the ability to track illness trends and outbreaks.

Track Holiday Illness Trends and Outbreaks

The algorithm behind the app will track trends that begin to emerge in specific locations, so for instance if there are numerous reports being made on Twitter or Facebook of people suffering from Salmonella at a specific hotel or region, this data can be used by the informed holiday goer to decide if that place is safe and somewhere that they are willing to visit, and can also be used by visitors who are more cautious in areas where an illness outbreak is taking place.

It's important to point out that we see some of these suggestions as something that will become more prominent as time moves forwards, as at present Sickweather data is only available in the US, which while ideal for those planning a trip to North America, is not much use to those looking to travel anywhere else.

We would speculate that in time Sickweather, who aim to provide global real-time surveillance and forecasting for sickness outbreaks, will expand the app to include more continents and countries, particularly if use increases in the commercial sector due to the integration of their illness forecasting engine; Nightingale.

Forecast the Sickness Weather

One of the biggest benefits to those planning a break will be the ability of Sickweather's algorithm to predict potential outbreaks. Unfortunately people don't always learn from their mistakes and illnesses can repeat with patterns emerging in certain locations.

Using this app can help you to know when to travel and where to go to make sure that you're not placing yourself in harm's way. The Pro version of Sickweather currently touts that it offers a 15 week forecast in the US for influenza, something that we would imagine will surely be adapted to benefit holiday makers in the future.


Stuck in the Middle of a Holiday Illness Outbreak?

If you do find that your holiday has been ruined by an unexpected illness outbreak, then it's worth making sure that social media knows about it.

So send a tweet and inform your friends on Facebook, making sure that where you can you tag the hotel and package holiday operator in the process. Many companies are proactive on social media and by sharing your experience you don't just give them the opportunity to address the issue, but you also warn other holiday makers.

If your illness is of a serious nature and you don't receive the proper care that you're entitled to, you may be entitled to make a claim for compensation, so don't hesitate to contact our Holiday Claims team at Simpson Millar.

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