Web searches can be used to predict epidemics

Internet surveillance can detect infectious diseases such as Dengue Fever and Influenza up to two weeks earlier than other methods of detection, Australian researchers have found.

People who Google their symptoms before visiting their doctor can provide an early warming sign of the start of an epidemic. Spikes in searches for information about the same disease can be used to accurately predict its outbreak.

Researchers found that using data collected by algorithms such as Google Insights and Google Trends could have detected the 2005 outbreak of bird flu up to two weeks earlier than traditional surveillance reports.

Read more at Queensland University of Technology