Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Is Google Any Help in Tracking an Epidemic?

Is Google Any Help in Tracking an Epidemic?
(Source: Time Magazine Permalink)

When the first U.S. patients fell victim to the new H1N1 flu, they may not have thought immediately to call their doctor or run to the nearest emergency room. Instead, they probably sat down in front of their computers and Googled "flu symptoms" or "fever" or "chills" or perhaps even "treatment for flu."
That behavior is exactly what the folks at Google are counting on. Since last fall, the search-engine giant has been nurturing a spin-off service called Google Flu Trends, which aims to identify outbreaks by tracking searches for flu-related terms, and provide health officials with early warnings of potential epidemics. The reasoning is that if people are searching for flu, they're probably sick themselves or know someone who is — and a geographic cluster of like-minded Googlers could represent a burgeoning outbreak or, worse, the roots of a new pandemic. (In the case of H1N1, however, the distant and initially small number of cases in the U.S. meant the search service wasn't very helpful for predicting the current epidemic, but the strategy may prove useful in keeping track of disease progression.) Read Article...,8599,1895811,00.html?iid=perma_share

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

No comments: