Communities of practice
Google launches ‘Dengue Trends’
6 Jun 2011
It’s a measure of dengue’s impact on global health that the mosquito-borne virus, one of the world’s most rapidly emerging vector-borne diseases, generates more than a million Google search queries every month.
That finding led to the development last April of a new tool, Dengue Trends, aimed at detecting dengue fever outbreaks around the world. Using the same methodology employed by Google Flu Trends, which mines Google search query data to estimate influenza activity in near real-time, researchers at Children’s Hospital Boston, Harvard Medical School and Google.org, the tech giant’s philanthropic arm, assessed whether such a web-based tool could be a viable approach to the early detection and monitoring of dengue epidemics.
In a study published in the open-access journal PLoS NTDs, the researchers tested univariate linear models developed for each of five countries selected for analysis. For all five—Brazil, Bolivia, India, Indonesia, and Singapore—Google data on dengue-specific queries was measured against official dengue case counts between 2003 and 2010. All models were found to fit the data.
“The results of this study show that in general, models built on the fraction of Google search volume for dengue-related queries were able to adequately estimate true dengue activity according to official dengue case counts reported by national ministries of health or the WHO for five selected countries for the majority of the seasons during the time-frame analyzed,” write the authors.
According to Dr John Brownstein at Children's Hospital Boston, Google’s search data represents a dataset “that can be gathered, analyzed and released much more quickly and at much lower effort and cost than through traditional national surveillance and reporting programs.” Brownstein added that information derived by the tool “can help direct public health officials target interventions aimed at mosquito control and disease prevention, such as education campaigns, as early as possible.”
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