Journal Article

Google Trends: A Web-Based Tool for Real-Time Surveillance of Disease Outbreaks

Herman Anthony Carneiro and Eleftherios Mylonakis

in Clinical Infectious Diseases

Published on behalf of Infectious Diseases Society of America

Volume 49, issue 10, pages 1557-1564
Published in print November 2009 | ISSN: 1058-4838
Published online November 2009 | e-ISSN: 1537-6591 | DOI: https://dx.doi.org/10.1086/630200
Google Trends: A Web-Based Tool for Real-Time Surveillance of Disease Outbreaks

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Google Flu Trends can detect regional outbreaks of influenza 7–10 days before conventional Centers for Disease Control and Prevention surveillance systems. We describe the Google Trends tool, explain how the data are processed, present examples, and discuss its strengths and limitations. Google Trends shows great promise as a timely, robust, and sensitive surveillance system. It is best used for surveillance of epidemics and diseases with high prevalences and is currently better suited to track disease activity in developed countries, because to be most effective, it requires large populations of Web search users. Spikes in search volume are currently hard to interpret but have the benefit of increasing vigilance. Google should work with public health care practitioners to develop specialized tools, using Google Flu Trends as a blueprint, to track infectious diseases. Suitable Web search query proxies for diseases need to be established for specialized tools or syndromic surveillance. This unique and innovative technology takes us one step closer to true real-time outbreak surveillance.

Journal Article.  3599 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Infectious Diseases ; Immunology ; Public Health and Epidemiology ; Microbiology

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