Sunday, December 14, 2008

Comment On Letters To Nature: Detecting Influenza epidemics using search engine query data

Google's R&D identified the top search queries that accurately model the CDC's data on influenza-like illness (ILI) physician contacts in various geographic regions. 

See, Nature: Detecting influenza epidemics using search engine query data.

CDC's US Influenza Sentinel Provider Surveillance Network publishes on its Web site physician related ILI activities with a 1-2 week reporting lag. Google's automated procedure reduces the reporting to a day. See, Google Flu Trends.

In my opinion, there is a period of time, probably a few days to a week or more, between the onset of flu-like symptoms and actual physician contact. Folks can feel sick or have a cough or a runny nose which is going to result in flu before actually initiating ILI physician contact.

R&D might be able to identify the top search queries that occur a week or two before either CDC or Google Flu Trends data show ILI physician contacts.

Going from detection to prediction would be a useful step to prevent influenza-like illness.

 btw check out my original SETI research