Thursday, April 30, 2009

Good on you Google!

To Aid Mexico, Google Expands Flu Tracking
MIGUEL HELFT
Published: April 30, 2009
SAN FRANCISCO — Google has released a new version of its Flu Trends service that is tailored for Mexico in the hope of helping health officials and others track the spread of swine flu in that country.
Google Flu Trends, which was first released in the United States, in November, tries to track the incidence of flu based on the ebb and flow of searches for keywords related to influenza. The company called its Flu Trends for Mexico experimental because unlike in the United States, it does not have historical surveillance data to validate that its search data correlates to actual infections.
Google said Wednesday that it had created the new version of Flu Trends at the suggestion of scientists at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the United States. Google said that it had experienced an increase in flu-related queries in Mexico around April 20, suggesting that the service was accurately detecting the spread of swine flu.
By then, however, Mexican health officials had known for some time that there was a spike in flu cases.
Dr. Henry L. Niman, a biochemist in Pittsburgh who runs Recombinomics, a Web site that tracks the genetics of flu cases worldwide, said that Google’s service appeared to provide only limited advance warning. “I am not saying that it is not useful. It probably works to complement other sources of surveillance and data,” he said.

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