Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Surfing the net to monitor influenza

Not that long ago I wrote about how we could use social media sites to monitor the outbreaks of infectious diseases in our communities to warn other parents of the presence of infectious childhood diseases such as influenza, measles and chicken pox. Well it seems that others have been thinking along the same lines as researchers at John Hopkins in the USA have been reviewing Google Flu Trends to see if there is a link between people searching the internet for information about influenza, and actual hospital admissions to Emergency Departments for patients stricken with this infectious disease.

And what they found is that there is a connection, with an increase in people searching for information preceding a spike in admissions for flu related illnesses. This has implications for primary health care as keeping an eye on Google Flu Trends could help Emergency Departments prepare more precisely for imminent increases of patients with FLI - flu like illnesses. Traditionally, hospitals rely on pathology departments to screen for the presence of influenza in samples submitted for analysis and this can be a lengthy process: but by monitoring internet activity for influenza related searches, the information obtained can be reviewed on a daily basis. The other significant benefit is that Google is a world wide search engine, and so people who are considering travel to specific parts of the globe can check to see if influenza may be a possible threat to their health in their country of destination, and then take the appropriate precaution of immunization against influenza.

My suggestion to everyone would be to add to your bookmark bar, just so that you can see what is happening in your local community and in those areas of the world which you hope to visit in the near future.
Ampersands & angle brackets need to be encoded.

No comments: