Investigators found social media to be an effective tool for researching the clinical presentation and treatment of a mass casualty event of nerve agent poisoning, according to an article being published in Annals of Internal Medicine.
Organophosphate (OP) nerve agents are some of the most lethal weapons of chemical warfare. In 2013 sarin gas, an OP agent, was used in Ghouta, Damascus, killing 1,400 civilians and severely affecting thousands more. Through videos, cell phone pictures, and social media accounts, the world witnessed the event in "real time." This also marked the first time that a clinical syndrome (nerve agent poisoning) was examined through social media. Investigators sought to delineate the clinical presentation and treatment of a mass casualty event of nerve agent poisoning as shown in YouTube videos documenting the attack. Sixty-seven YouTube videos showing at least one victim for at least three seconds were reviewed. The YouTube videos enabled the researchers to observe the clinical signs of nerve agent poisoning and evaluate management protocols to better prepare for future events. The investigators believe that systematic gathering of smartphone data could be used as part of a clinical or epidemiologic investigation, especially in situations when direct access is restricted.
Study: Lessons Learned From the Syrian Sarin Attack: Evaluation of a Clinical Syndrome Through Social Media, Y. Rosman, A. Eisenkraft, N. Milk, A. Shiyovich, N. Ophir, S. Shrot, Y. Kreiss, and M. Kassirer, Annals of Internal Medicine, published 5 April 2014.