Feeds

GooFlu searches for sickness

Google tells you when to get sick

Build a business case: developing custom apps

Google's philanthropic tentacle, google.org, has found a strong correlation between official data on influenza from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention and the number of people searching for flu information on google.com.

Google Trends collects the 100 most popular searches on Google.com. Many of these entries reflect last night's TV or enduring internet interests like escort girls or obscure anime cartoons. By stripping out such distractions some interesting information remains - at the time of writing flu symptoms were the most popular US search. At number two however is "insomnia cookies". The service is used by marketeers to judge the impact of campaigns on web searchers.

The surprising thing is that Google's information can be as much as two weeks ahead of CDC data. Researchers looked at certain flu-related search terms for the last five years and compared them to flu surveillance information from CDC. They found CDC data, collected from doctors and hospitals, followed Google Trends by about two weeks. Almost every increase in numbers of flu cases was preceded by an increase in flu searches.

Over the 2007-2008 flu season Google shared this information with the CDC and was "able to accurately estimate current flu levels one to two weeks faster than published CDC reports". The service is so far only available in the US but allows you to search by state.

CDC data from doctors and hospitals take a while to collect and analyse while Google's search terms can be crunched much more quickly.

The research has now been accepted in principle for publication in Nature. Google hopes the data will allow doctors and health planners to respond more quickly to epidemics or even pandemics.

More on flu trends from Google.org. ®

The Essential Guide to IT Transformation

More from The Register

next story
Just TWO climate committee MPs contradict IPCC: The two with SCIENCE degrees
'Greenhouse effect is real, but as for the rest of it ...'
Asteroid's DINO KILLING SPREE just bad luck – boffins
Sauricide WASN'T inevitable, reckon scientists
Flamewars in SPAAACE: cooler fires hint at energy efficiency
Experiment aboard ISS shows we should all chill out for cleaner engines
Boffins discuss AI space program at hush-hush IARPA confab
IBM, MIT, plenty of others invited to fill Uncle Sam's spy toolchest, but where's Google?
NASA Mars rover FINALLY equals 1973 Soviet benchmark
Yet to surpass ancient Greek one, however
Famous 'Dish' radio telescope to be emptied in budget crisis: CSIRO
Radio astronomy suffering to protect Square Kilometre Array
BEST BATTERY EVER: All lithium, all the time, plus a dash of carbon nano-stuff
We have found the Holy Grail (of batteries) - boffins
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Backing up Big Data
Solving backup challenges and “protect everything from everywhere,” as we move into the era of big data management and the adoption of BYOD.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Why and how to choose the right cloud vendor
The benefits of cloud-based storage in your processes. Eliminate onsite, disk-based backup and archiving in favor of cloud-based data protection.