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In Journal of medical Internet research ; h5-index 88.0

BACKGROUND : The SARS-CoV-2 epidemic spread rapidly by human-to-human transmission in Wuhan China. Social media, especially, Sina Weibo (a major Chinese microblogging social media platform), has become an important platform for the public to obtain information and express their demand.

OBJECTIVE : This study aims to analyze the characteristics of the suspected or laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 pneumonia patients who asked for help on the Sina Weibo.

METHODS : We conducted data mining on the Chinese social media site Sina Weibo and extracted the data of 485 patients that presented with at least clinical symptoms and imaging descriptions of suspected or laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 pneumonia from 9,878 posts seeking help on Weibo from February 3rd to 20th, 2020.We used descriptive research method to describe the distribution and other epidemiological characteristics of the patients with suspected or laboratory-confirmed SARS-CoV-2 infection. The distance from their home to the nearest hospital was calculated using geographic information systems (ArcGIS).

RESULTS : All patients seeking help on Weibo in this study lived in Wuhan, with a median age of 63.0 years (IQR, 55.0-71.0). Fever (84.12%, 408/485) was the most common symptom. Ground-glass opacity (75.48%, 237/314) was the most common pattern on chest computed tomography.39.67% (167/421) of families had laboratory-confirmed and/or suspected COVID-19 family members. 36.58% (154/421) of families had 1 or 2 laboratory-confirmed and/or suspected family members.70.52% (232/329) of patients needed to rely on their descendants for help. The median time from illness onset to real-time reverse-transcriptase polymerase-chain-reaction (RT-PCR) testing was 8 days (IQR, 5.0-10.0), and the median time from illness onset to online help was 10 days (IQR, 6.0-12.0). 32.22% (155/481) of patients lived more than 3 kilometers away from the nearest hospital.

CONCLUSIONS : The patients seeking help on Weibo lived in Wuhan and most of the patients were elderly. Most of patients had fever symptoms and chest computed tomography mainly manifested as ground-glass opacity pattern. The onset of the disease was characterized by family clustering and most of families lived far from the hospital. Therefore, (1) We recommend that the most stringent centralized medical observation measures should be taken to avoid transmission of family cluster; (2) Social media can help these patients get early attention during the closure of Wuhan. These findings can help the government and the health department identify high-risk patients and accelerate emergency responses following public help demands.


Huang Chunmei, Xu XinJie, Cai Yuyang, Ge QinMin, Zeng GuangWang, Li XiaoPan, Zhang Weide, Ji Chen, Yang Ling