Google tool uses search terms to detect flu outbreaks
Google Search Trends Reveal Flu Outbreaks
Google Flu Trends
CDC Influenza Flu [pdf]
Flu Center: Mayo Clinic
Google has been working on a number of innovative projects over the past few years, such as Google Scholar and Google Books. This week, a number of media outlets have been reporting on their foray into public health, Google Flu Trends. Google decided to partner with the Center for Disease Control (CDC) on the initiative. Essentially, the program looks at flu-related searches across the country. The CDC provided five years of flu-tracking data to complement Google's real-time tracking of various flu-keyword searches. Dr. Joseph Bresee, the chief of the CDC's epidemiology and prevention branch commented, "We really are excited about the future of using different technologies, including technology like this, in trying to figure out if there's better ways to do surveillance for outbreaks of influenza or any other diseases in the United States." The tool does have some notable limitations, especially in regards to tracking influenza outbreaks among the elderly, as they may be less likely to use the Internet. Also, some people who look for flu-related terms via Google may have viral infections that are not in fact influenza.
The first link will take interested parties to a piece from this Thursday's Guardian newspaper about Google's Flu Trends site. The second link leads to a detailed piece from CNN about the focus of this new site, along with commentary from several CDC officials and other experts. Moving on, the third link leads to a fine piece from National Public Radio that includes a discussion with Miguel Helft, who recently wrote an article on Google's Flu Trends for The New York Times. The fourth link will whisk users away to Google's Flu Trends website. Those persons concerned about the flu will definitely want to check out the fifth link, which leads to the CDC's flu website. Here visitors can look over flu prevention tips and basic information about the flu. The last link leads to the Mayo Clinic's Flu Center site, which has additional information on how to cope with the flu and its symptoms.