Page last updated at 13:18 GMT, Wednesday, 12 November 2008

Google searches track flu spread

Google flu map
The site maps the state-by-state prevalence of flu

Google's philanthropic arm has released a new site that tracks the incidence of flu in the US based on terms used in Google searches.

The system uses aggregated, anonymous results from searches for flu-related terms and plots their locations.

The approach, validated against Centers for Disease Control (CDC) flu records, provides timely data that could be two weeks ahead of government figures.

The site, which is free to use, will pass the early-warning data to the CDC.

Hundreds of billions of Google searches from 2003 onwards were used to develop the model, which was then compared with CDC data on outbreaks.

"Our team found that certain aggregated search queries tend to be very common during flu season each year," Google said in their official blog on the topic.

"We compared these aggregated queries against data provided by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and we found that there's a very close relationship between the frequency of these search queries and the number of people who are experiencing flu-like symptoms each week."

Traditional survey techniques employed by the CDC take about two weeks to precisely identify outbreaks, and Google hopes that its data, based on a stream of current searches, will serve as an early warning system that the CDC can then act upon.

Print Sponsor

Mobiles 'to help track diseases'
17 Oct 06 |  Technology
Universal flu vaccine on trial
05 Sep 08 |  Health
Google sets up $1bn charity fund
12 Oct 05 |  Business

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit


Sign in

BBC navigation

Copyright © 2020 BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.

Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific