Health Care IT: How Google, CDC, Twitter, Wikipedia Are Tracking Swine Flu

 
 
By Nicholas Kolakowski  |  Posted 2009-04-28
 
 
 

How Google, CDC, Twitter, Wikipedia Are Tracking Swine Flu

 

How Google, CDC, Twitter, Wikipedia Are Tracking Swine Flu

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Google Flu Trends uses aggregated search queries (think people typing in the words "swine flu") to map the spread of a pathogen across the United States, based on the assumption that a close correlation exists between people searching for flu-related topics and people actually having the flu. Google claims that its data on flu activity is two weeks faster than "traditional flu surveillance systems." Given the low number of confirmed swine flu cases, Google Flu Trends is still reading the country's flu activity as "Low."

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The CDC has set up its own updated site monitoring the swine flu outbreak, totaling up confirmed cases of swine influenza as well as the number of hospitalizations of swine flu patients. The site also includes information on treatment and preventions.

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Individuals have utilized Google Maps to provide a visual representation of the virus's spread. Updated every few hours or so, this particular map shows pink markers for suspected cases, purple markers for confirmed or probable cases, yellow markers for cases eventually proved negative, and deaths by a lack of a dot in the center of the marker.

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Wikipedia is getting into the act with an updated "current event" page complete with a tally of laboratory-confirmed cases, deaths and "other possible cases." It is also providing maps, history and references.

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Twitter's real-time feed has become a source both for people looking for more real information on the possible spread of swine flu, and people determined to bring a particular brand of humor to any hint of calamity. Twitter streams about swine flu are being updated on a second-by-second basis as more "tweets," or 140-character posts, are left; some include references to news articles and FAQs.

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