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Googling flu trends

Googling flu trends

As the flu season kicks off, Google builds a New Zealand model for Google Flu Trends.

Google launches Google Flu Trends as the flu season starts in the Southern Hemisphere. Google Flu Trends was first launched in the United States, and is a response to the rise of flu-related queries during the flu season on the search engine.

The searches are closely related to the actual spread of the flu. “If we tally each day's flu-related search queries, we can estimate how many people have a flu-like illness,” Google says in a press statement.

Google notes that while traditional tracking systems may take days or weeks to collect and release data, the Google search queries can be counted immediately.

To build the model for New Zealand, Google worked on historical seasonal flu data from the World Health Organization’s National Influenza Centre at the Institute of Environmental Science and Research (ESR), which is funded by the Ministry of Health. The latter estimates that influenza affects up to 20 per cent of the population each year.

The press statement quotes ESR’s Dr Matthew Peacey who reports that while the website can not replace the WHO’s influenza network surveillance, it provides an indication of trends to complement the enhanced surveillance put in place to meet local needs, particularly during the outbreak of A/H1N1.

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Tags Googleonline trends

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