Google Flu Trends for Mexico, Facebook Track Swine Flu
Facebook becomes the latest social-networking site to monitor the spread of swine flu, tracking the occurrence of flu-related words and phrases in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom. Meanwhile, Google has created a Google Flu Trends site to track the spread of swine flu through Mexico. Google, Twitter, Wikipedia and other pillars of Web 2.0 have allowed users to receive real-time information about the possible spread of the pathogen, although some critics assert that social-networking has the potential to spread undue panic.Facebook follows in the footsteps of Twitter, Google and other prominent Web 2.0 sites by introducing an application for tracking swine flu, the much-publicized pathogen that has killed dozens of people in Mexico and potentially infected hundreds more worldwide.
Facebook is utilizing its Lexicon tool, which traces the occurrence of certain words and phrases on its users' Walls over time, as a possible way to monitor the impact - or at least discussions about - the disease.
A chart on the site shows a spike in discussion of swine flu over the weekend, accompanied by maps of the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom showing the percentage of users utilizing flu-related terms in discussions. Perhaps unsurprisingly, three areas of the United States in which swine flu has been reported - Texas, California and New York - show particularly heavy amounts of activity.
Technically known as swine influenza A (H1N1), the virus manifests itself in symptoms that range from fever, muscle aches, headaches and cough to diarrhea and vomiting. Regular strains of the flu kill between 250,000 to 500,000 a year, but the swine flu has drawn particular attention due to the fact that, unlike those seasonal viruses, its victims have tended to be healthy adults as opposed to infants or the aged. While questions remain as to whether swine flu will cause widespread devastation, research firm Gartner estimates that an actual pandemic could cause absenteeism rates of 40 percent or higher for the enterprise and smaller businesses.
"IT managers should meet with senior executives, line-of-business managers and other high-level decision-makers to answer any questions should be made aware of the seriousness of this pandemic preparation," Roberta Witty, research vice president at Gartner, said in a statement. "IT managers should plan, test and add capacity to ensure the sustainability of what is likely to be a predominantly work-at-home environment."