Google Uses Search Terms to Predict Flu Activity

In Google Flu Trends, Google uses related searches to predict flu activity in your area “up to two weeks faster than traditional flu surveillance systems.” The above graph shows query-based flu estimates compared against flu data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.

We have found a close relationship between how many people search for flu-related topics and how many people actually have flu symptoms. Of course, not every person who searches for “flu” is actually sick, but a pattern emerges when all the flu-related search queries from each state and region are added together. We compared our query counts with data from a surveillance system managed by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and discovered that some search queries tend to be popular exactly when flu season is happening. By counting how often we see these search queries, we can estimate how much flu is circulating in various regions of the United States.

[Thanks, Iman]

1 Comment

  • Interesting, but not surprising. I wonder how many other things could be regionally-tracked using Google data. Probably quite a lot of things could be analyzed, such economic data and demographics.

Favorites

Divorce Rates for Different Groups

We know when people usually get married. We know who never marries. Finally, it’s time to look at the other side: divorce and remarriage.

10 Best Data Visualization Projects of 2015

These are my picks for the best of 2015. As usual, they could easily appear in a different order on a different day, and there are projects not on the list that were also excellent.

Shifting Incomes for American Jobs

For various occupations, the difference between the person who makes the most and the one who makes the least can be significant.

How We Spend Our Money, a Breakdown

We know spending changes when you have more money. Here’s by how much.