CIO Symmetry

Nov 13 2008   1:51PM GMT

Google Flu Trends: What is it?

Kristen Caretta Kristen Caretta Profile: Kristen Caretta

Chills, body aches, fever — it’s flu season. Am I sure of these symptoms? Of course, I Googled them. If you find yourself doing the same as cold and flu signs creep up around you, you may be contributing to Google’s newest effort to mark trends — Google Flu Trends, that is.

Google.org, a branch of the company committed to addressing world problems (as stated in the company vision), recently launched Google Flu Trends — aggregating Google search data to estimate flu activity across the country.

According to Google, people searching for flu-related search topics and people with actual flu symptoms are closely related. Google compared the query counts with data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and found that certain flu queries were popular during flu season. Keeping track of how often these specific queries show up during flu season can provide flu circulation estimates throughout the United States. During last year’s flu season, Google.org was able to accurately estimate current flu levels one to two weeks faster than published CDC reports.

Although still in the very early stages, Google Flu Trends could give you a heads up on flu season to prevent you from catching the dreaded affliction. According to Medical News Today, more than 97 million cases of the flu are reported annually. With a one- to two-week advance notice of flu trends in your state, you may be able to take the necessary precautions to prevent sickness (and sick days).

As of now, most states are in the low to moderate zone for flu trends.

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