Friday, December 19, 2008

Googling for flu may be good for you

Haven't we all done it? Felt sick, typed in our symptoms and searched online, attempting to diagnose ourselves before seeing the doctor?

As you might expect, more people search on flu-like symptoms and treatments during flu season than during the rest of the year. In fact, the wizards over at Google found a correlation between how many people search for flu-related topics and how many people actually have flu symptoms. They then developed a Web tool that uses information from searches to estimate how many people have a flu-like illness. At Google Flu Trends, you can find the latest estimates on flu activity across the country.

Why would Google offer a flu tracking site when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention already surveys doctors and patients to track the flu? It turns out that traditional flu monitoring systems take up to two weeks to collect and release information to the public. On the other hand, Google search queries (though not as scientific) can be automatically counted very quickly. During the last flu season, Google was able to estimate flu levels up to two weeks faster than CDC. Daily flu estimates can provide an early-warning system for flu outbreaks and help us take the necessary steps to protect ourselves.

Right now, the tool only monitors the flu in the United States, but Google hopes to eventually use it to help track flu and other diseases all over the world. So if you don't feel well, go right ahead and search the Web for your symptoms. Your query may just motivate someone else to protect themselves against the flu.

Query: Have you ever used the web to diagnose your symptoms?

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lemonadeS said...

I prefer WebMD over Google for health /illness questions. When you search Google, you never know what you find. There is a lot of junk on the web!

Anonymous said...

Historical Facts Associated With Influenza:

The last influenza pandemic occurred nearly 100 years ago, and this deadly outbreak resulted in about 50 million deaths worldwide. Those who survived have allowed others to obtain antibodies from them to develop other antibodies for future viral outbreaks that may occur. This last influenza pandemic also allowed others to obtain this virus from those who died as a result to facilitate effective treatments and vaccines for viral outbreaks that may happen in the future as well.
With influenza, it is understood that the disease influenza is a disease caused by a RNA virus that can infect both mammals and birds. In fact, this particular virus can mutate to where it can be shared between the two life forms and multiply within each one of them. Unlike coryza, influenza expresses symptoms more severely, and usually lasts two weeks until one recovers who has the flu. Influenza, however, poses a danger to some with compromised immune systems, such as the chronically ill. In cases such as this, influenza can in fact progress to deadly pneumonia. Symptoms of influenza usually start to express themselves symptomatically 36 hours after being infected with the virus. Over 10 percent of the population are infected with this virus every year- resulting in about 200,000 hospitalizations and nearly 40,000 deaths.

The flu vaccination contains three viral strains of suspected viruses for flu outbreaks during a particular winter season, as determined by the World Health Organization, as well as the Centers for Disease Control, and other organizations. Unfortunately, the influenza vaccine administered last flu season was largely ineffective due to unsuspected strains of the virus infecting others, although about 140 million doses of this vaccine were administered. After giving the vaccination dose to one, it takes about 10 days for that person to build up the immunity for the disease of influenza.
The influenza season peaks between the months of January and March. The vaccine for this influenza season is manufactured by 6 different companies. Yet the strains chosen are speculated influenza viruses, as this does not eliminate the chance of a new and dominant influenza viral strain that possibly could cause a pandemic. It takes manufacturers about 6 months to make and formulate the influenza vaccination. There is a vaccine for this illness that is produced every year according to which type of virus may be prevalent during a particular flu season. The vaccination is recommended to be administered to those who are at high risk, such as the chronically ill. Also, it is recommended that those under 18 years of age get the vaccine, as well as those people over the age of 50. Furthermore, those people who regularly take aspirin should receive the vaccine, as the influenza disease can become a catalyst for Reye’s Syndrome. Pregnant women should receive the vaccine as well- as there are many other vaccines available to fortunately prevent other diseases, perhaps.
Dan Abshear