As compared to national surveillance data, web-based search data helps with quick information for early detection and monitoring of dengue outbreaks.
Furthermore, it also enables public health officials in the more than 100 countries affected by dengue to respond more quickly to nascent epidemics in developing countries.
AdvertisementResearchers at Children's Hospital Boston and Google.org are behind the study findings.
"By using search data, we're tapping into a freely-available, instant dataset that can be gathered, analyzed, and released much more quickly and at much lower effort and cost than through traditional national surveillance and reporting programs," said Brownstein, director of the Computational Epidemiology Group in CHIP.
"The kind of information the tool provides can help direct public health officials target interventions aimed at mosquito control and disease prevention, such as education campaigns, as early as possible," he added.
He further explained that "this information can act as a supplement to traditional surveillance and reporting systems and give local authorities a leg up on an outbreak."
The researchers selected Bolivia, Brazil, India, Indonesia and Singapore as the basis for their study.
These countries have a sufficient level of endemic dengue transmission to provide baseline data, along with a large base of Internet users and national data collected.
The dengue tool follows the methodology of Google Flu Trends, an application developed by Google and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that mines web search data for patterns that can help public health officials get an early jump on seasonal flu epidemics.