Launched in 2008 in the US by Google.org, Google Flu Trends is more powerful than ever. In case you are not familiar with this web service, Google Flu Trends uses aggregated Google search data to provide up-to-date estimates of influenza activity for more than 25 countries. The method was proven, as estimates based on Google search queries very closely match traditional flu activity indicators, such as the data provided by the US Centers for Disease Control.
So who has the flu today in the the world? As you can see, the Southern Hemisphere is more affected than the Northern one – not so surprisingly, as it is winter there – with highest rates in Chile and South Africa. While the flu might not seem of high concern to developed countries anymore, thanks to vaccination and effective medication, the “swine flu” pandemic of 2009 proved us all wrong. It is also true that in the globalised world we live in, pandemics can now develop faster than ever, and this is where Google Flu Trends comes handy: according to an article by The New York Times, Google Flu Trends can predict regional outbreaks of the flu up to 10 days before they are reported by traditional flu surveillance. No need to mention that this makes the web service a powerful tool to identify disease activity early on and respond faster, so to reduce the impact of both seasonal and pandemic influenza.
Note that Google now also provides estimations for Dengue trends around the world.