Social media used to identify foodborne illnesses sooner

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Who doesn’t love a nice meal at a great restaurant? That is unless you get an upset stomach or worse.

The Southern Nevada Health District has teamed up with the University of Rochester to create an app just for health officials that tracks foodborne illnesses in Las Vegas.

At one time or another most people will have a bad experience at a restaurant. In today’s world, they are likely to take to social media to make their complaint known.

Soon the new Southern Nevada Health District app called Nemesis will be tracking your complaints about food.

“So if we find a bunch of people that got sick and they’re all at the same restaurant, we can identify that and then send out an inspector to see if there’s any particular problems at that restaurant,” said Brian Labus, epidemiologist and UNLV professor.

Nemesis is already tested and proven.

Last year, Nemesis monitored about 36,000 tweets per day. One thousand were from restaurants.

“If you came to Vegas as a tourist and you visited one restaurant, we knew you were there at a certain time. Even if you go home after that, we can still  track you for those few days and see if you talk about getting sick. This allows health officials to send out inspectors sooner, hopefully, preventing an outbreak,” Labus said. “Because after an outbreak, now we’ve got more people who are sick, it’s bad for the restaurant, it’s bad for Las Vegas, it’s bad for tourism.”

The health district has about 60 food inspectors who do routine inspections annually. They will also visit restaurants based on complaints. It’s hoped Nemesis will get them to problem restaurants sooner.

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