Google flu trends helps target flu near you

By: Victoria Maranan Email
By: Victoria Maranan Email

SHERMAN, TX -- Just in time for flu season, a popular search engine has developed a site that can monitor cases of the flu anywhere in the country.

It is called Google Flu Trends. It monitors flu activity in a certain area, based on how many times people search for the flu, or anything related to it, online.

I spoke with a health professional and a computer expert about what they think of the site.

Registered nurse, Barbara Moody, says while the flu tends to peak in January and February, not as many people have been coming in with the illness.

"It hasn't really started yet, so we know it's coming. We know it will happen. It just hasn't begun and it's often February before you see a big push in this part of the country."

A new website called Google Flu Trends could help medical professionals track flu cases around the world and right here at home, by compiling how many times the term "flu" has been searched online.

According to this map, flu cases in the state of Texas are at a moderate level. Moody says, this site can be useful, but she says the data can be inaccurate.

"I think it's a quick way to get a snapshot for the public. I think it's probably important because people use twitter, facebook, google, etc. I think it's important from that standpoint. However, I think the people don't understand the difference in real flu and what they're calling flu," Moody said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defines the flu as a contagious mild to severe respiratory illness that causes fever of over 100 degrees, sore throat, muscle aches and fatigue.

Geek Squad agent, Benjamin Gillam says, he too had some doubts about Google Flu Trends, but when he looked at the graph and compared it to one provided by the CDC, the numbers were close.

"I was kinda skeptical a little bit because it's statistics...statistics can always be one way or another. Actually, by looking at it, if you look at the historical data because they actually have the chart on there...it's very much historically accurate on it," Gillam said.

He says it's impressive how Google Flu Trends can present its findings instantly.

"It's amazing because Google can use real time every search that's going through to actually look at it, as opposed to looking to medical statistics, which is through a census, which you take a month long look at it to compile your data."


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