When scores of attendees at a Playboy Mansion function last February came down with a mysterious respiratory illness, Los Angeles health officials scrambled to find its provenance — and found it on Facebook.
DomainFest, an Internet conference which drew over 700 attendees globally earlier this year, took place at various locations throughout the L.A. area, including the famed Playboy Mansion, from February 1 to 3.
Among the people who were at the gatherings, the highest incidence of those stricken with the illness were the revellers who partied at the mansion on the last day of the event.
Health investigators quickly sprung into action to try and track down the type of illness that had affected so many like wildfire.
What officials found at the ground zero playpen was the bacterium that causes Legionnaires Disease which was discovered in the grotto, the famous artificial cave that houses the whirlpool spa.
The Legionella bacterium which normally grows best in warm water can cause serious respiratory illnesses including pneumonia; Pontiac fever (marked by fever, headache and malaise) and the H1N1 flu is a suspect as well. People can become infected with the illness if they breathe in the bacteria-ridden mist. Oddly, the disease cannot however, be transmitted from one individual to the next.
Many who attended the convention wrote about their experiences by either blogging or using social media sites like Facebook. Scientists were particularly interested in culling the postings from those who talked about the widespread illnesses to determine if there was one common denominator.
The L.A. Times reported that an attendee wrote on his Facebook page,: “Domainerflu count: Who else caught the disease at DFG?” Three dozen names appeared in the comments section of the post.
Facebook allowed investigators to readily identify the outbreak due to speedy responses from those stricken. Researchers also used online polls, sending them to all of the conference goers; out of 715 that received the surveys, over 400 responded.
The investigation is still ongoing and Playboy Mansion representatives have cooperated with epidemiologists.
I guess several of the Playboy Mansion guests parted with a gift they certainly did not expect to receive. It seems Facebook postings and the open discussions about who was stricken with an illness actually wound up saving the day by becoming a useful tracking system. Have you used your Facebook page to cull information that you used as a survey or poll for your own work?