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Google Fights Flu with Search Data

Google Combats Flu with Search Data
Leave it to Google to come up with a way to help combat the spread of disease with nothing more than some search terms and an armada of computers. The folks at the Google Predict and Prevent team discovered, using data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), that there was a direct correlation between searches for flu related terms and symptoms.

The CDC already collects data on outbreaks of influenza, but the information is always a week or two behind current conditions. The crew in Mountain View (Google Headquarters) found that they are able to make accurate estimations of the number of flu cases based on user queries (for example, searches for "the flu") -- this could act as an early warning system for epidemics or, more frighteningly, pandemics.


We are just entering the beginning of the flu season, but already, Google Flu Trends (yes, they've already created a site) is able to identify areas in the U.S. where the spread of the flu virus may be of greatest concern. Maine, Delaware, Kentucky, Mississippi, and Arkansas have also seen an up-tick in flu related searches over the last week or so that out-paces searches in the rest of the country.

If you're in one of these states you may want to take extra precaution to prevent yourself from becoming just another number in the Google database including (but not limited to) getting your flu shot. Making sure your immune system is in tip-top shape is also important. That means vitamins, exercise, and a well rounded diet. And for the truly misophobic, investing in a stock of surgical masks. [From: Official Google Blog]

Tags: cdc, center for disease control, center for disease control and prevention, CenterForDiseaseControl, CenterForDiseaseControlAndPrevention, flu, health, influenza, search