Google creates tracking tool for dengue outbreaks
Fresh from tackling the flu, Google is gearing up to battle mosquitos. Along with Children’s Hospital Boston and Harvard Medical School, the Internet giant plans to use search data to create an early-warning system for dengue outbreaks.
The mosquito-borne tropical virus affects hundreds of millions of people a year, laying them low with high fevers, severe headaches, rashes and mild bleeding. Since there’s no vaccine or treatment, health officials usually focus their efforts on prevention.
Google and crew created an online tool at www.google.org/denguetrends that tracks nascent dengue epidemics by looking at Web search results from users in Bolivia, Brazil, India, Indonesia and Singapore.
It follows the methodology of Google Flue Trends, which was developed with help from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Though dengue data usually take weeks or months to be collected and analyzed, Google says its tracking tool will be updated daily.
The system uses the Google Correlate system, announced last week to help researchers track real-time behavior using search trends.
-- Tiffany Hsu [follow me]
Photo: A patient lies on a bed in a ward reserved for people suffering from dengue fever in a hospital in Asunción, Paraguay, in April. The nation is suffering the worst dengue epidemic in its history. Credit: Jorge Adorno / Reuters