Internet-based media coverage on dengue in Sri Lanka between 2007 and 2015

Annelies Wilder-Smith, Emily Cohn, David C. Lloyd, Yesim Tozan, John S. Brownstein

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Internet-based media coverage to explore the extent of awareness of a disease and perceived severity of an outbreak at a national level can be used for early outbreak detection. Dengue has emerged as a major public health problem in Sri Lanka since 2009. Objective: To compare Internet references to dengue in Sri Lana with references to other diseases (malaria and influenza) in Sri Lanka and to compare Internet references to dengue in Sri Lanka with notified cases of dengue in Sri Lanka. Design: We examined Internet-based news media articles on dengue queried from HealthMap for Sri Lanka, for the period January 2007 to November 2015. For comparative purposes, we compared hits on dengue with hits on influenza and malaria. Results: There were 565 hits on dengue between 2007 and 2015, with a rapid rise in 2009 and followed by a rising trend ever since. These hits were highly correlated with the national epidemiological trend of dengue. The volume of digital media coverage of dengue was much higher than of influenza and malaria. Conclusions: Dengue in Sri Lanka is receiving increasing media attention. Our findings underpin previous claims that digital media reports reflect national epidemiological trends, both in annual trends and interannual seasonal variation, thus acting as proxy biosurveillance to provide early warning and situation awareness of emerging infectious diseases.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number31620
JournalGlobal Health Action
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2016


  • Awareness about dengue
  • Dengue
  • Emergence of dengue
  • Healthmap
  • Influenza
  • Internet
  • Malaria
  • Media
  • News coverage
  • Sri Lanka

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Policy
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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