The BBC rounds up some of the online health mapping efforts and notes: “Brownstein [HealthMap co-founder John Brownstein] admits that while software-based disease alert systems are rapid, they not as reliable as official bodies.”
Google Flu Trends spokeswoman Corrie Conrad told BBC World Service’s Digital Planet, “We have flu estimates for 28 countries and accuracy will vary depending on each country. But in the United States when compared with the official data from the Center for Disease Control (CDC), we found we were over 90% accurate.”
She added: “It can take one to two weeks for the CDC to collect data from the different doctors across the country that are part of their system but search data is updated automatically every day.”
The service which looks at what people search for as good indicators of influenza in a population is part of the search engine’s philanthropic arm, google.org. It is just one of many software-based disease alert systems dotted around the worldwide web.
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Sachiye Day, VERTICES intern