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Ambarish Ganesh
Ambarish Ganesh • May 31, 2011

Google To Track Dengue Hubs

Web giant Google is studying search patterns to trace out all the potential dengue fever hubs, in order to assist health officials in case of an outbreak. Developing an early warning system is in line, which will help in monitoring dengue-related search terms by users in Bolivia, Brazil, India, Indonesia and Singapore. According to Google, its results are collected in real-time, whereas the same official data may take weeks or even months to be analysed.

Such analysis is not new for Google. Previously it had used a similar approach to track the spread of flu, back in 2009. Google software engineer Vikram Sahai, in his blog post states, "Using the dengue case count data provided by Ministries of Health and the World Health Organization, we're able to build a model that offers near real-time estimates of dengue activity based on the popularity of certain search terms. He further added, "Google Dengue Trends is automatically updated every day, thereby providing an early indicator of dengue activity."

Google Dengue

The project was developed together with Boston's Children's Hospital and Harvard Medical School. An article in the Public Library of Science Journal on neglected tropical diseases, also shares this methodology of this project. This tool forms an essential part of Google Correlate, a new service that connects search analysis with real life data collection. Following Google’s success with Flu Trends in 2009, the tool Correlate was created which tracked for flu related searches worldwide. These data was implemented by Public Health Officials to distribute vaccines and treatments more effectively. A report published in nature soon garnered attention of other researchers hoping to use this Google’s service for other related causes.

Correlate allows experts to upload their own data sets to compare against Google searches. It was launched last week. Professor Peter Sever, an expert in disease prevention from Imperial College London, said the tool could prove very useful for researchers that currently collect data using slower methods. "It will of course be highly selective because you'll be picking out the people who are using Google, but of course year on year that's an increasing proportion of the population anyway," he said. The software indicates when the real world data and online searches share similar patterns, such as flu outbreaks occurring at the same time as a large number of searches for "treatment for flu” and such likewise searches.

Via: BBC

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