A-choo! It’s that time of the year again where people get the flu, and thankfully, Google was able to come up with something to help us. With Google Trends technology, we can figure out if flu cases are rising in our area.
Google Trends has helped me a lot in my job. From finding search term trends and Alexa-like traffic ranking, Google Trends has been very useful for anyone who needs that sort of information on the fly.
Not surprisingly, the technology behind Google Trends was used by Google.org, the nonprofit arm of Google, to generate a comprehensive flu tracker, showing the prevalence of flu outbreaks across America. With the basic assumption that flu-related search terms spike whenever there’s a flu outbreak, Trends is used to estimate when and where flu outbreaks happen. The data goes back to only 2003 though, so if you want a historical analysis going back a decade, this is gonna be useless.
However, if you just need a quick estimate, or if you need to know when flu cases are rising in your area, you can just do a quick check with Flu Trends. Data is tracked by state, so you can check if the flu starts picking up in your area.
According to the data Google has, December is historically the worst flu month, so this is the perfect time for Google Flu Trends to launch. What does Google want to accomplish with Flu Trends? They’re hoping that the tracker will be a quicker and more accurate way to find flu trends, rather than the traditional method of waiting for doctors to report the flu. Google estimates that people will Google for flu 1 to 2 weeks earlier before they let their doctors know about it.
Aside from the location-specific flu trending, Flu Trends also has a flu shot locator. Just enter your zip code and you’ll be given a list of places where you can get that much-needed flu shot.
Next time you feel a flu coming on and you’re not too sure if you have it, instead of waiting for the flu outbreak announcement, just log on to Google Flu Trends and you’ll see right away if flu trends are shooting up in your area. It’ll save you a lot of time.