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Hopkins researchers find 'Google Flu Trends' a powerful early warning system for emergency departments
Date:1/9/2012

pronounced when researchers reviewed data showing a rise in search traffic for flu information and the number of children coming into the Hopkins pediatric emergency room with what doctors call influenza-like illness or ILI.

Although the science and medical community has generally accepted that a rise in flu search queries on Google Flu Trends corresponds with a rise in people reporting flu-like symptoms, the Johns Hopkins team is believed to be the first to show that the Flu Trends data strongly correlates with an upswing in emergency room activity.

Currently, emergency departments, hospitals and other health care providers rely on Centers for Disease Control and Prevention flu case reports provided during flu season, October to May, as a key way to track flu outbreaks.

However, the researchers say those traditional reports, compiled using a combination of data about hospital admissions, laboratory test results and clinical symptoms, are often weeks old by the time they reach practitioners and hospitals. Thus, they don't provide frontline health care workers with a strong tool to prepare day-to-day for a surge in flu cases, even as the flu is spreading in real time, Rothman notes.

Google Flu Trends, on the other hand, collects and provides data on search traffic for flu information on a daily basis by detecting and analyzing certain flu-related search terms. The company says the search queries, when combined, are good indicators of flu activity. Users of the free service can narrow their data reports to geographic regions, time frames and other denominators.


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Contact: Mark Guidera
mguider1@jhmi.edu
443-898-2320
Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions
Source:Eurekalert

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