According to the Crisis Coordination Center in Larissa over 200 000 animals (61 786 sheep and goats, 19 355 pigs, 5 306 head of cattle, and 123 810 birds) have vanished from the storm Daniel in Thessaly during the first wave of flood (7-12.09.2023). Most of them drown.
Veterinary crisis response
To mitigate the impacts of floods on farm and companion animals as well as one public health, multiple effects were taken. This includes providing proper shelter, securing food and water supplies, and having evacuation plans when necessary. Additionally, local authorities veterinary inspection and animal welfare organizations often play a crucial role in rescue and relief efforts during flood events:
Rescue efforts: In many cases, rescue teams and animal welfare organizations mobilize to help stranded and at-risk animals during floods. These efforts can include evacuating animals to safer locations, providing food and water, and offering medical care.
Economic compensation: For farmers, floods caused significant economic losses due to damage or loss of livestock, crops, and infrastructure (>2 Billions Eur).
Trajectory of interest
The study employs both qualitative and quantitative methods to assess Greek digital traditional and social media in September 2023. We collected mentions related to flood by Brand24 (supply of information) and Google trends (demand of information). The goal of this analysis is to see what is the social reaction to the threat (bottom up approach).
Missing and displaced animals
Floodwaters can force animals to leave their habitats, resulting in displacement. Farm animals, such as cattle and horses, may roam aimlessly in search of higher ground, often getting separated from their owners. Farm animals often rely on structures like barns and coops for shelter. Flooding can destroy these structures, leaving animals exposed to the elements.
Floodwaters can carry debris and contaminants that pose health risks to animals. Injuries and drowning can also occur as animals attempt to navigate the floodwaters.
Floods can disrupt the availability of food and clean water for both farm and companion animals. Animals may go without food or water for extended periods if their owners are unable to provide for them.
There are multiple discussions covering issues related to epidemiological and epizootiological threats due to flood. I.e. Diarrhoea.
Due to climate change and anthropological impact (i.e. wars) Europe is expecting more and more threats for one public health (with focus on veterinary issues) in future. To mitigate the impacts of ecological disasters such as floods on farm and companion animals, it’s essential for one health authorities in not only have emergency plans in place, but also crisis communication skills. This includes early warning systems or media monitoring activity during the event. Additionally, local authorities and animal welfare organizations often play a crucial role in rescue and relief efforts during flood events.
Shortly after midnight on Thursday 20.07 information about a “lioness” in the village of Kleinmachnow on the border between Berlin and Brandenburg spread like wildfire on social media and online news channels. A low quality 6 second video which was taken on the side of a roadway was posted on twitter and seemed to show a large mammalian body scrimmaging in the bushes with only the animal’s side, back and neck/ears visible. Some users (i.e hunters) were baffled and clearly saw a wild boar, rather.
The mayor of the village of Kleinmachnow officially spoke of the ‘lioness’ in an official press conference and many news reports and reporters who took up the serious claim from the twitter post repeatedly throughout the day on the 20th. Accordingly, the streets remained ‘more quiet than usual’ as reported by a ‘WELT Nachrichtensender’ (20 July, 2023) correspondent, in response to the calls for (non) action while combined police, military, veterinary and crisis management teams split into units to handle the situation which reduced the fear for human safety from the village to the metropol of Berlin. For 30 hours straight, large financial resources were used up to facilitate a massive investigation of more than 100 personnel, with infrared cameras, combat weapons, etc (22 July, 2023, DW News).
Let’s have a look at the role the media played (clickbaits and fuelling emotions) through a mixed-method (quantitative and qualitative) approach to the agenda setting of security and responsiveness in the face of such a grave ‘dangerous lion’, which subsequently generated viewership and advertising revenue. And then how peace (with a bit of humour) was restored when the ‘lioness’ was found out to be in fact a wild boar.
Description: The 1st peak, the awareness of the threat, occurs around 7am on 20.07 when people are waking up and as a result of checking social media before work or hearing from a contact, inquire further into the situation about the lion. A local emergency took place as citizens received notifications in the morning to their smartphones to stay in their homes. The mention of a wild boar first started out as such a ‘food source’ with major disinformation being spread of the lion having chased after and/or consumed one. The media interest then naturally dropped, levelled out, as news reached the bigger metropol of Berlin. A concern would be tied to the ‘green’ wildlife corridors in the city as wild boars or lions may move between there and Brandenburg via the Grunewald forest. A correspondent for the Guardian also detailed the ideal forest canopies in Grunewald at the edge of the village to be an ideal ‘jungle’ substitute to hide out and that wild boars and other wildlife would provide nutritious and abundant food sources.
The 2nd peak occurring around 5am on 21.07 is the highest, when during the night of 20.07 and into the morning, people were eagerly waiting for the resolution of the issue, in the search throughout the night for the lioness. The threat to other potential food sources, specifically the lives of pets, as ‘ideal lion food’ were among the major subjects of focus in the media (July 21, 2023, Guardian News). The crisis response teams, starting already on 20.07, thus continued to move as quickly and efficiently as possible to secure the lives of humans and pets in Kleinmachnow and Berlin.
Description: The attention of the general public (seen in GT) as well as traditional (high reach) and social media continued as the mayor, Michael Grubert, in his largest press conference ever, on July 20th, updated the citizens of Kleinmachnow and spectators following online that the ‘lioness’ had still not been found (carrying high mentions and negative corresponding emotions).
A biosecurity discourse about ‘wild boar(s)’ carried on online which generated more disinformation, as according to the mayor of Kleinmachnow, people ha mentioned that the lion(ess) may have been released by the city as a possible new wild boar hunting system. “We are still trying to do it normally (hunting of wild boars) and will not set up a Serengeti Park in order to be able to solve the wild boar problem. But it is a serious situation.“(Global News on 20 July, 2023). Wild boars have historically been a major problem in the Berlin-Brandenburg (ravaging gardens and attacking pets) for the eyes of citizens, and now even more so with them being the main host of the African Swine Fever virus (we will touch more on this). Predators would theoretically provide a trickle down food chain effect to manage wild animal populations but as we can see with the return of wolves in Brandenburg and Saxony, many other issues come with this such as wolf attacks on livestock and hunter-wolf confrontations.
The change from traditional to social media
The interest continued until around 11AM on 21.07 with some level of fear (some level of negative emotion, but without signs of panic, and a feeling of security among those interviewed, likely as a result of the heavy police force).
The demand for news (Graph 1) increases once again, for the last time, the climax (3rd peak) around 12AM on 21.07 when the investigation of the search, and a thorough examination of faeces/stool samples as well as a deep analysis of video footage conducted by an expert determined that the Berlin lioness was very likely, in fact, a wild boar. It was announced by the police chief Peter Foitzik and Michael Grubert, the town mayor, who held up a picture showing the variations in wild boar and lion body structures in front of a podium of reporters and citizens, accompanied by an official press release on the town’s website (July 22, 2023, Gemeinde Kleinmachnow).
The 3rd and final peak, the climax, started around 12 pm on 21.07, where wild boars finally became a central topic as a result of the truth (of the lioness being a wild boar) being revealed. However, Graph 2 and 3 show that the mentions online across both forms of media are still high despite the drop off of news releases, likely with social media carrying the weight as people’s mood started to likely change from one of worry to amusement. Panic now dies down as the situation is resolved. The media circus’ ‘after life’ emerged in memes and satiric discussion on social media at the expense of authorities (still high flow of mentions with a lot of positive attitude) during the weekend 22-23.07.
Here we can see that one wild boar who disguised itself as a lion, and later unmasked to the public, shows that there are worse things that can threaten human life and pets (bios), rather than the virus’s threat to livestock (emotional burden of farmers and economic threat) and wild boar lives (less of a concern for the majority of citizens), or the threat to gardens and the rare pet or human life. Helping to put into context the normalisation of wild boars in Berlin, as everyone calmed down, and to show that the obvious answer at times is overlooked and the mind goes towards something spectacular. Expertise of hunters was not asked for, and the problem of ’naming‘ animals a lion based on the twitter post could have been avoided this way. One hunting school on the outskirts of Berlin offered afterwards to teach interested people about how to distinguish between the animals. The same problem of inclusion exists with the intensive hunting of wild boars and fencing to contain ASF in Brandenburg and Saxony, which could have also better included their lengthy and thorough experiences over time with wild boars. The presence of Classical Swine Fever in the 1980’s enabled their eradication under disease control laws (Fleischmann, 2020). Today, in addition to wild boars still being a concern for many citizens in Berlin, the endemic presence of the African Swine Fever virus in wild boars in the German-Polish borderland may be another catalyst for their eradication from the city, with high media attention every time an event such as farm infections or long-distance viral jumps occur (Jarynowski et al, 2021). Although not shocked by a wild boar, if ASF reaches Germany, we may see such a media circus return, and the result will be chaotic. Citizens do not normally accept hunting in and around the city (Oelke et al, 2022), but trapping will likely have to be included, which has already been employed with resistance from animal rights groups in cities such as Barcelona, Hong-Kong and others.
Timely production of high quality and evidence based rapid risk/outbreak assessments in response to communicable disease threats is important not only in human, but also among animals.
Advances in computing power, together with the amount of data obtained from disease surveillance, registries, sensors or digital traces enable machine learning, complex system analytics and standard statistical tools as well as computer simulation to be applied to the field of Veterinary Epidemiology.
Our team member was visiting Australia (UNE) in middle of Novermber analyze animal contact networks (based on RFID tags) in poultry farms from an infectious disease modeling perspective i.e. to estimate critical detection times.
Andrzej has shown 3 case studies: 1) modelling, 2) infodemiology, 3) sensors:
Nowadays researchers widely use Internet media data to investigate the behavioural and affective dynamics of the public during COVID-19 pandemics. However, non-English European languages are highly underrepresented and other non-human health problems are not covered at all. Cross-sector communication, collaboration and knowledge exchange are still significant challenges for practical integration of human, animal, plants and environmental health issues. Adoption of One Health solutions can be divided into two pillars:
Infodemiology is very useful in understanding social perception during the pandemic by quantifying dynamics of interest (demand and supply of content) and discourse patterns. It plays a complmentary role to standard tools such as surveys and allows for the analysis in real time.
Infosurveillance could be useful for one public health decision makers in some specific areas such as predicting disease prevalence or early warning and source detection of health crisis event (also complmentary to standard tools such as disease surveillance and environmental monitoring system).
We hereby invite to attend a mini-workshop on media monitoring and analysis for One Health issues at the Institute for Veterinary Epidemiology and Biostatistics, FU Berlin organised by Prof. Vitaly Belik and Mr. Andrzej Jarynowski, as part of the DFG research (458528774) project „COVINT“.
Speakers and topics of workshop: Digital traces on the Internet from the One Health perspective
Vitaly Belik (Leader of Working Group System Modelling, Institute for Veterinary Epidemiology and Biostatistics FU Berlin)
Andrzej Jarynowski (computational epidemiologist, Institute for Veterinary Epidemiology and Biostatistics FU Berlin)
Daniel Płatek (postdoctoral fellow at Departments of Administrative, Economic and Social Sciences, Lund University/Assistant professor (incoming) at Institute of Political Studies of the Polish, Academy of Sciences in Warsaw)
Situation at Odra/Oder river shows a potential of media monitoring in infoveillance (early warning) as well as infodemiology (analysis of the discourse) within One Health context. Moreover it requires international cooperation. The problem appear between Opole Region Lower Silesia, then river passes large city of Wrocław, then move through Lubusz region it reaches the German (Branderburg)–Polish border, and then drains along the border through Western Pomeriana Province into Szczecin Lagoon shared between Poland Germany (Mecklenburg-Vorpommern) which is linked with the the Baltic Sea.
Using media monitoring and analysis tools, it is possible to trace the events of water state and mass fish die-offs on the Oder and its tributaries.
Timeliness and precision for early warning One health event detection and its importance (infoveillance) and its impact on the society (Infodemiology) from data published on the web is crucial for crisis management harm reduction. Our focus is the integration of human, animal, and ecosystem health with interactive computational social science and digital epidemiology approach.
Infectious diseases of animals ASF, COVID-19 humans, as well as food safety or the state of air mainly in Poland but also in some extent in Germany have previously marked their mark on the operation of sanitary, veterinary, plant protection and environmental inspections. In addition, together with the pharmaceutical and labor inspection (at least in part of their duties) and their military counterparts, they form a conglomerate of the so-called biomedical / One health inspections. Health, food, water, and environment are all wider topics with silos-specific and specialist concerns, the collaboration across sectors and disciplines (with social and computational science) will contribute to solve crises. In the event introduction of a new factor (natural or intended) CBRNE, the most important is the detection time. Until now (18.08), the factor or set of factors causing the ecological disaster on the Oder has not been established, however, in-depth analyzes were not started until 11.08, and in this article I indicate that it should take place on 05.08 at the latest.
Using content in Polish and German between 25.07-18.08.2022 with the help of monitors by Buzzsumo, Brand24, Twitter API, EventRegistry, Frazeo or Google trends, some results of One Health importance are discussed.
Media monitoring in Poland
To understand event, context must be introduced. The first information about dead fish on the Gliwice Canal (Oder tributary) appeared at the end of June (practically during the whole month of July discussion about individual dead fishes and the state of the Canal were happening). July was also a month of intensive discussion on the topic of deepening the Oder. The negative impact of regulation and, inter alia, the movement of contaminated sediment from the river bed came up (according to the media discussion).
Between the mouth of the Gliwice Canal and the weir in Lipki at the western end of the Opole Voivodeship and on the Nysa Kłodzka On the Oder, there were no mentions on social media or regional websites about dead fishes in July.
Moreover, round 25-27.07, residents, agricultural and ecological organizations of the riverside of Oder and its tributes complained about extremely low water levels in the rivers and the problem of water abstraction for irrigation of fields.
Let us focus on the digital traces in the area of the Lower Silesian Voivodeship in the initial phase, ie until about 08.08, which could help identify the factors causing the plague and limit the damage caused by the catastrophe.
On 27.07, the social media of Oława and the anglers‘ associations reported the first mentions of dead fishes on the border of the Opolskie and Lower Silesian Voivodeships. On the Oława news portals, full press articles appeared on 28.07. Also on 28.07, the Environmental Inspectorate in Wrocław set up a Twitter account and communicated on social media (Twitter, Facebook) about the results of the research. Due to the fact that so far the fish kill phenomenon was local and incidental, the Environmental Inspectorate in Wrocław did not take further steps apart from intensified monitoring.
29-31.07 media coverage in Oława media about fish kill was high due to the organised action of catching and disposing of dead fishes.
31.07 Lower Silesian regional media (including Radio Wrocław and Gazeta Wrocławska, TVP3 Wrocław) present their reports. Also on 31.07 a warning was issued on Silesian internet portals about a rapid increase in the state of the Oder River from Chałupki to Kędzierzyn Koźle (which would later appear as a theory of draining water from retention reservoirs).
Between 01-03.08 there was no mention of the appearance of the dead fishes outside angling forums (dead fishes appeared in the mainstream of the Oder in Wrocław, but not in quantities indicating an ecological disaster). The Wrocław Left-wing party members intervened in the public and political sphere.
On 04.08 there were reports from Głogów (about smell and single dead fishes).
It is worth noting that the first city through which the Oder River flows throughs (in the sense that the direct population has access to the shoreline and travels over bridges (without screens) after Wrocław is Głogów. Thus exposure to non-professional users of the Oder River was relatively low, so fish carcases could be overlooked. This lack of fish carcases occurrence and anomalites in water qiality in local media will be an important part of epizootiological investigation. It supported hypothesis about biological cause of the disaster (non-continuity of events in spatio-temporal picture).
Thus we can see that Lower Silesia as a first region of the disaster is great source of data about early states of the disaster .
With the help of semantic maps, we can see in what context people where searching for Oder. For instance the Oder („Odra“) is also a name of the disease: measles as well as name of multiple football clubs as „Odra Opole“. There are intensified queries (breakout in relative increase in search volume last weeks) about geography of the river („gdzie płynie Odra, przez jakie miasta przepływa“) and what is the reason of river poisoning („dlaczego/czym Odra jest zatruta“).
As the occurrence of death fishes moved forward with the current, the first reports from 06-08.08 in Lubusz were again coming from angling community. Fish kill search queries gain a lot of popularity in the Lubusz region (see the darker green on the map below). The lower part of Odra river there is much populated by fishes and other fauna, so in results the mass of death fishes were the most spectacular there.
During the weekend of 06-07.08, anglers discussed the large number of dead fishes on the so-called „dead Oder“ in various areas around Wrocław. Also during the weekend of 06-07.08, a discussion developed on the web portals and social media of Głogów.
We see also a strong interest in Oder river among the all regions affected directly by this ecological disaster. Please note, that Silesian region, through which Oder and its tributes flows, has low interest in the topic, as this region haven’t been affected by fish kills this time.
On 09.08 the mainstream media in Lubusz (Gazeta Lubuska, Radio Zachód etc.) publicise the issue (previously Lower Silesia media did it). On 09.08 nationwide media (Onet, Dziennik, TVPinfo, Interia, Wprost, SE) reported on the incident too.
Oder in Polish news started from a local event (Wrocław and Lubusz) to become national wide issue around 12-14.08, when prime minister and central government visited sites. Furthermore some topics as possible pollution with mercury (borrowed from German media) raised.
10.08 is further propagation on nationwide media and nationwide social media. Only now are nationwide environmental organisations getting involved. Thus, we cans see sharp increase in published material since 10.08. Political organisations from Western Poland have been activated.
It’s important to mention, that the most useful for describe the even term was fish kill till 11.08, afterwards Oder were more commonly used. This may be and effect that people become to threat this event as environmental disaster, which is more than only fish kill.
Another important aspect is social media coverage, because wave of interest in social media has different shape (its sharper and has maximum before traditional media), emotional load and topics coverages.
On 11.08 media storm erupts (mainly on social media) in Poland. We can see that the sharp peak of interest was on 12.08 on google trends and also a sharp peak on 13.08 on Polish Social Media. The peak in news was both 12.08 and16.08 (first day after long weekend – Bank holiday).
Keywords used by content authors are diverse with some several focuses on late reaction of local authorities, the restrictions introduces by voivodeship authorities on 12.08.
The information needs were also satisfied in Wikipedia, where we see similar peak on 12.08 as in Google trends and social media, because of SMS (short mobile message) alert in affected by disaster regions.
Further on, the media situation has already gained momentum and the Oder has become the number 1 topic on the Polish Internet and an important topic also in Germany (but never dominating).
Media monitoring Germany
On 10.08 fist mentions appeared on the German regional internet (as the wave of death fishers reached the German part of the Oder river).
There is a lot of critic towards Polish side, due to not informing Germans about the disaster. Climate change and weather were mentioned too (not so often, but link between disaster on Oder with climate change does not exist in Polish media at all). There is also a discussion on other fish kills event across Germany (in much smaller scale).
In German language Oder means or, so using single keyword Oder is not recommended, the only topic Oder will be consider for further analysis.
On 11.08 German regional broadcaster spread a rumour about contamination of water with Mercury). This rumour was officially cancelled by authorities on 13.08, but information become ‚alive‘ in media for a while.
Peak of interest in Germany in news was on 15.08 (however flat, while on social media on 14.08 (it was Sunday), so main traditional media had a day delay. Its seems that German discussion is less emotional than Polish (lower negative sentiment load).
We can see clearly peak on 11.08 evening on Twitter which was related to Mercury rumour from the news. Peak of interest on social media was on 13.08 in Poland, but in Germany on 14.08.
Geography of the interest in Germany is even more concentrated in a Oder regions than in Poland. Thus, there is much less interest in non-affected regions of Germany, than non-affected regions in Poland. It’s worth to mention, that in opposition to Poland, where the Oder river flows through multiple regions, it’s only a border river of a single state: Brandenburg .
We can see on Wikipedia queries how Fish kill event became Environmental disaster in naming.
It seems that interest in Poland is around 10-folds bigger than in Germany in Google queries. The peak of interest in Google Trends in Poland was observed on 12.08 (as it was a day that citizens of Odra region received communicates from authorities, but in Germany on 13.08.
Oder river in both German and Polish News has been discussed from reasons not related to investigated disaster too (as this river has important social and economic meaning for these countries).
Public asking Google needed mainly information about reasons of kill fish (warum Fischsterben in der Oder/ Welsche Fische sterben) and asking what do to (kann essen/ was tun).
The disaster has different names in Poland and in Germany. In Poland it’s mainly called “Katastrofa Ekologiczna” Ecological/Environmental Disaster, however in German internet its usually called “Fischsterben” (Fish kill), however the popularity of each terms was changing with time.
What should we take away from this lesson? The aim of this analysis is not primary to find the source of the disaster, but mostly find out what appeared in the media discourse and how this should be used. It is a signal report highlighting the role of real time media infosurveillance, which could have supplementary role to standard bio-chemical One Health surveillance.
One Health integrates the health of humans, domestic and wild animals, plants, and the wider environment (including ecosystems) are closely linked and inter-dependent, exactly as in Oder river disaster case study. We see how SMS alarm on 12.08 was a successful crisis communication tool in Poland. We have even seen that refugees and migrant community (counting up to 10% population of Western Poland) get interested, because we have observed also and increase in interest in Ukrainian language). It is worth mentioning, however, that in the media discourse there are hypotheses and theories (also propagated by scientific celebrities or people with professors‘ titles) completely unrealistic. For example, it was not possible to dilute the water by discharging water from retention or flood control reservoirs on the tributaries of the Oder, because due to the drought it was empty. Unfortunately, we noticed in the German and then repeatedly strengthened on the Polish side, pressure from journalists and politicians, who propagated by distorting unconfirmed information about mercury.
monitoring of local discussion forums on social media and local media as well as specialised discussion groups (in this case anglers) allows for spatio-temporal localisation of incidents in and should be incorporated into early warning/signalling systems and can help in the investigation of sources of possible contamination in Lower Silesia and Opole/Silesian Regions (infosurveillance);
discourse analysis on local and national social and traditional media allows for an understanding of threat perception and thematic dynamics (infodemic). We can see that authorities alerts works out (there was an important increase in interest). There is also a substantial difference in terms of intensity as well as topic narration between Poland and Germany (Fischsterben/Oder vs Odra/Katastrofa ekologiczna)