Internet abuzz with swine flu chatter

Swine flu chatter has been criss-crossing the Internet as the global spread of the virus became the hottest subject at micro-blogging service Twitter.

By Tuesday afternoon, Google's trend-tracking website rated swine flu a "spicy" Internet search topic due to a sudden spike in interest that earned it a spot in a Top 10 online Hot Trends list.

Tourists walk inside Mexico City's international airport wearing face masks.

Meanwhile, a Google Flu website designed to use search query data to map the spread of influenza virus in the United States indicated the respiratory illness did not appear to be spreading rampantly there.

"Current estimates of flu activity are still generally low across the United States, as is expected given the confirmed swine flu case count," said in a message atop its Flu Trends home page.

Google's Flu Trends map indicated that influenza activity was "low" in all US states except Hawaii, where activity was rated as "high."

"Hawaii is a challenging model, but we aren't terribly surprised that it's marked 'high' on Flu Trends," said in response to an AFP inquiry.

"The state government says they tend to see flu year-round because of the tropical climate and tourist populations."

Swine flu chatter was rife on Twitter, as people shared news stories, headlines, fears, perceptions and misperceptions.

"Overheard in a bar: Swine flu is the new Susan Boyle. Still chuckling but I'm not sure why," tweeted a Twitter user by the online name CBCType."

Scottish singer Susan Boyle, who became a sensation after appearing on a television program "Britain's Got Talent," was the hottest topic on Twitter before being bumped from the throne by swine flu.

The US Centers for Disease Control is using Twitter to send real-time alerts and updates regarding swine flu. CDC Emergency had 37,431 followers on Twitter as of early evening.

The United States cautioned it may soon see its first deaths from the virus, which thus far has proved fatal only in Mexico, where more than 150 people are believed to have died from the flu.

"Yikes!" wrote Twitter user xenon21. "They are expecting people to die of swine flu in America."

Source AFP

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