Google Geeks take on the Flu

Google Geeks take on the Flu

Google Geeks take on the Flu

The Google geeks are at it again and it's not just driverless cars!

   

Google Geeks take on the Flu

image by: Brian McNeil

Google Flu Trends believes that there is a relationship between the number of people who search for flu-related topics and the number of people that actually have the flu. "Of course, not every person who searches for "flu" is actually sick, but a pattern emerges when all the flu-related search queries from each state and region are added together.

We compared our query counts with data from a surveillance system managed by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and found that some search queries tend to be popular exactly when flu season is happening. By counting how often we see these search queries, we can estimate how much flu is circulating in various regions of the United States". 

"Across each of the nine surveillance regions of the United States, we were able to accurately estimate current flu levels one to two weeks faster than published CDC reports". To add credibility to their tracking system, their data was recently published in Nature.

This is an exciting development, because early detection of a disease outbreak can reduce the number of people affected. If a new strain of influenza virus emerges under certain conditions, a pandemic could emerge and cause millions of deaths, as happened for example in the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918.

The Google geeks have raised the bar for tracking the Flu by creating an earlier warning system than current conventional systems. Utilizing this Google tool should help government agencies, physicians and the general public deal more effectively with the flu.

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Last Updated : Thursday, September 1, 2022