Tag Archives: flu

Google search terms can predict flu outbreaks; what next?

sneezeYou’d have to have been under a pretty large metaphorical internet rock to have missed all the reports about Google Flu Trends that are floating around the web today like sneezed particles of snot, but just in case:

By tracking searches for terms such as ‘cough’, ‘fever’ and ‘aches and pains’ it claims to be able to accurately estimate where flu is circulating.

Google tested the idea in nine regions of the US and found it could accurately predict flu outbreaks between seven and 14 days earlier than the federal centres for disease control and prevention.

So I was thinking, if they can predict flu outbreaks by using search terms as an indicator, what else can be predicted in a similar way? Stats geeks were rinsing comparisons of Obama and McCain as search terms in the run-up to the election, but politics is a bit more complicated than infectious diseases.

Or is it? [image by trumanlo]