Google found that by examining search terms that are indicators of flu activity, they could estimate occurrences of the flu up to two weeks faster than the CDC.
According to Google, millions of people around the world search for online health information, and as you would expect, flu-related searches go up during flu season, allergy-related searches during allergy season, etc.
By comparing past search data to past flu data, they were able to find a close relationship between how many people search for flu-related topics and how many people actually have flu symptoms. Granted, not every person that searches for “flu” is actually sick, but by comparing data and looking for patters, trends emerge, and specific words and phrases can be picked out that are better predictors than others.
Plus, it’s not all just fun and games. By making flu estimates available each day, Google Flu Trends can provide an early-warning system for outbreaks, weeks ahead of what the CDC can provide.
What are you searching for?