Paging Dr. Google. Paging Dr. Google.
While searching Google won’t treat the flu, Google Flu Trends can predict where the flu is most prevalent. How?
Google found a close relationship between how many people search for flu-related topics and how many people actually have flu symptoms. By counting how often we see these search queries, we can estimate how much flu is circulating in different countries and regions around the world.
Google is now your thermometer for tracking the flu (and other epidemics). Pun intended. How do you use it? Just visit http://www.google.org/flutrends to view a world map. Flu activity is ranked by color with lime green being minimal and dark red as intense (the highest). Click on the country you’d like to view in order to get data from state and/or city level (when available). Yep, it’s that easy.
Is the data current? I’m glad you asked:
Estimates for the current week are updated daily as new search query data is collected. However, once a week is over, the estimate for that week is final and not revised. Google Flu Trends weeks begin on Sunday and end on Saturday.
Why does this matter to you? A few reasons:
- Getting ready to travel? If the location you’re visiting has high or epidemic levels of the flu you might want rethink your trip.
- Work in a local newsroom? You might want to keep tabs on your cities’ flu levels to include in online reporting.
- Have kids? While you’ll probably hear from Jennifer and Johnny’s mom first, you can still check your city to stay on top of flu trends.
You can view the information a few ways, including downloading data as needed. Here’s the current download of the Google Flu Trends estimates for the world.
CDC urges you to take these steps to protect yourself and others from the flu:
- Get vaccinated against flu – it’s your best defense.
- Cover your cough, wash hands often.
- Take antiviral drugs if your doctor recommends them.
Here’s the CDC’s guide to all things flu-related.