Google introduces Flu Tracking Map


Google has introduced an interactive flu map which tracks the spread of influenza across the U.S.:

“Tests of the new Web tool from, the company’s philanthropic unit, suggest that it may be able to detect regional outbreaks of the flu a week to 10 days before they are reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention…Its new service at analyzes those searches as they come in, creating graphs and maps of the country that, ideally, will show where the flu is spreading…Google Flu Trends avoids privacy pitfalls by relying only on aggregated data that cannot be traced to individual searchers. To develop the service, Google’s engineers devised a basket of keywords and phrases related to the flu, including thermometer, flu symptoms, muscle aches, chest congestion and many others. Google then dug into its database, extracted five years of data on those queries and mapped it onto the C.D.C.’s reports of influenzalike illness. Google found a strong correlation between its data and the reports from the agency, which advised it on the development of the new service.”


  1. JK says

    Keep in mind that most headlines (including this one) are confabulating the story a bit. I’m an epidemiologist who has worked in syndromic surveillance, and I caution anyone who believes that this is actually tracking the influenza virus. Many people think they have the flu anytime they feel ill. In reality, most people who think they have it likely have a severe cold. A real case of influenza is rarely verified (because it’s expensive, takes a long time and, well, there’s still no cure for the flu anyway), but is a savage and life-threatening disease. This is a great utility from Google, but it needs to speak more realistically and assert a little less strongly that this is some mass population-driven influenza tracking tool. At best, it’s a tool to track the collection of seasonal illnesses that, to some degree, share symptoms with influenza infection.

  2. Foochy says

    Just an important reminder for everybody to get their flu shot before the end of the year, since it only gives you active immunity for about 2-3 months and the average height of the flu season is usually in January/February. And hand sanitizer, a daily multivitamin, and an extra packet of tissues to give to “Typhoid Mary/Mark” sitting next to you on the train will go a long way too.

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