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Google Flu Trends estimates off
Date:5/17/2010

to evaluate the validity of Google Flu Trends influenza surveillance by comparing it to a gold standard of CDC's national surveillance for influenza laboratory tests positive."

The researchers analyzed the incidence of flu outbreaks in the United States between 2003 to 2008. They found that Google Flu Trends deviated greatest from CDC surveillance for influenza virus tests positive during the 2003-04 influenza season, a year notable for early and intense influenza activity, with a high number of pediatric influenza deaths and substantial media attention to influenza.

"Internet search behavior is likely different during anomalous seasons such as during 2003-4," explained Dr. Ortiz. "We hypothesize that during periods of intense media interest or unexpected influenza activity such as the 2009 H1N1 influenza pandemic, Google Flu Trends may be least accurate at estimating influenza activity."

"Still, Google Flu Trends influenza surveillance provides an excellent public health service, because it provides nationwide influenza activity data in a cheap and timely manner," said Dr. Ortiz. "Nevertheless, our study demonstrates that its data should be interpreted with caution and that other surveillance systems more accurately reflect influenza activity in the United States."


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Contact: Keely Savoie
ksavoie@thoracic.org
212-315-8620
American Thoracic Society
Source:Eurekalert

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