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New Infodemic Management Tools to Support Pandemic Planning and Preparedness for Pandemic Influenza and Respiratory Pathogen Disease Events

A new public health taxonomy for social listening on respiratory pathogens has been released alongside other useful tools for infodemic management.

The public health taxonomy for social listening provides a structure allowing an analyst to align data to a search strategy to better understand how the public conversation is changing in relation to a public health topic of interest. A taxonomy can help organize and map information to support identification of infodemic insights. Public health taxonomies for social listening have been developed and implemented by WHO for COVID-19 and for mpox.

Now, in-line with the new WHO Preparedness and Resilience for Emerging Threats (PRET) initiative that focuses on pathogens transmitted via respiratory means, a new taxonomy has been developed for social listening on Respiratory Pathogens on Respiratory Pathogens. This taxonomy takes a broad view, encompassing viral, bacterial and fungal pathogens across the five taxonomy topic areas of the cause, illness, intervention, treatments and information. The new report details the development of the taxonomy and provides advice for analysts looking to incorporate it into their work.

This taxonomy adds to other recent tools produced by the WHO infodemic management team to support pandemic planning including OpenWHO training modules modules on taxonomy development and other infodemic topics, the WHO/UNICEF How to build an infodemic insights report in 6 steps report, and a new respiratory pathogen portal on WHO Early AI-Powered Social Listening Tool (EARS) platform.

The WHO EARS platform was launched in December 2020 to help to understand public concern during the pandemic. The platform uses a public health taxonomy to categorise content from online sources such as social media, news articles and blogs, and presents it in real-time. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, over 100 million posts were analysed, allowing infodemic managers, health authorities and analysts insight into public conversation’s, concerns and misinformation to help inform the response.

The new respiratory pathogen taxonomy has been integrated into WHO EARS and a pilot is being trialled with 30 countries and 17 languages. The public facing dashboard allows all users to see where conversations are escalating, what people are talking publicly about the most, and if there are information voids or gender differences in conversations. A new social indicators panel tracks social change and provides indication of how conversations may be changing. A comprehensive back-end with increased functionality is available for use by regional and country WHO teams to inform and guide their Infodemic response.

The pivot of the WHO EARS platform from COVID-19 to respiratory pathogens demonstrates the ability of this innovative platform to continue to support social listening across different areas of pandemic and infodemic preparedness. Ongoing testing and iterations on the platform, including review of countries and languages, will ensure the approach remains relevant and useful.