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Google Studying Search Queries Pattern to Track Onset of Flu in the US

by Tanya Thomas on  November 13, 2008 at 5:51 PM News on IT in Healthcare   - G J E 4
The search engine biggie, Google, is putting the power of the Web to use for a good cause- tracking the onset of influenza in the United States through studying patterns in search queries of its users!
Google Studying Search Queries Pattern to Track Onset of Flu in the US
Google Studying Search Queries Pattern to Track Onset of Flu in the US
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Google Flu Trends, a new tool unveiled by the Internet giant on Tuesday, counts the number of flu-related queries on the Google search engine and provides estimates on influenza outbreaks in the 50 US states.

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"We found that there's a very close relationship between the frequency of these search queries and the number of people who are experiencing flu-like symptoms each week," Google said in a posting on its official blog.

"If we tally each day's flu-related search queries, we can estimate how many people have a flu-like illness."

Google said it had shared its results with the Atlanta-based US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which does its own flu tracking.

"It turns out that traditional flu surveillance systems take 1-2 weeks to collect and release surveillance data, but Google search queries can be automatically counted very quickly," Google said.

"Together we saw that our search-based flu estimates had a consistently strong correlation with real CDC surveillance data," it said.

The company cautioned that Google Flu Trends, which can be seen online at google.org/flutrends, is "still very experimental," but said it could possibly be a useful tool in preventing the spread of other diseases.

"By making our flu estimates available each day, Google Flu Trends may provide an early-warning system for outbreaks of influenza," the Mountain View, California-based company said.

"For epidemiologists, this is an exciting development, because early detection of a disease outbreak can reduce the number of people affected," Google said.

"Our up-to-date influenza estimates may enable public health officials and health professionals to better respond to seasonal epidemics and - though we hope never to find out - pandemics," it added.

Influenza is responsible for some 500,000 deaths around the world each year.

Source: AFP
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