Google Search Engine Tracks Influenza

With ever-increasing technological advancements, innovation appears to be growing at an exponential rate. One example of innovation using technological mechanisms is Google Flu Trends. The number of user search queries for a given topic closely correlate to the prevalence of that real-life phenomena. In the case discussed here, people search for flu-like symptoms more often during flu season. This may seem common sense to many, but there is an interesting aspect of this. Google Flu Trends uses trend analysis of user search queries as flu activity indicators in order to establish early detection of influenza outbreak (flu season), as well as the severity of the outbreak.  

United States: Influenza-like illness (ILI) data provided publicly by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control

Unfortunately, this system isn’t foolproof and by no means should be taken as completely reliable.  A recent article express concern over the reliability of Google Flu Trends based on inaccurate (and highly overestimated) influenza rates this past flu season. In my eyes, this shouldn’t be much of a concern really since any and all prediction-based software is prone to error (after all, it is attempting to predict the future). What should be recognized is the existence of influenza outbreak indicators that in previous decades would have been advancements only seen in science fiction movies.  

Current research is being conducted to develop alternate healthcare indicators using social media as well.  Studies continue to establish accurate early detection indicators with the use of both Twitter and Facebook, as well as other resources I’m sure. The future holds some fascinating technological advancements. 

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  1. […] Google Search Engine Tracks Influenza (medicalminded.wordpress.com) […]

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