When most people need the answer to something, their first option is to “Google” it. Need directions to an unfamiliar place? Google it. Need instructions on how to build something? Google it. Worried that your cold is actually something more serious like the flu? Google it. This flu season, the folks at Google are learning that certain search activity can be a good indicator of flu trends around the globe.
Google’s researchers have found a close relationship between how many people search for flu-related topics and how many people actually have flu symptoms. Of course, not everyone who searches for “flu” is actually sick, but a pattern emerges when all flu-related search queries are added together. Google found that during flu season, more people obviously search for “flu” and by counting up all those searches, they can estimate just how much flu is circulating in different countries and regions around the globe. Pretty neat, right?
And here’s another interesting tidbit: Google’s data is actually pretty accurate when compared to other traditional flu activity data. Google Flu Trends is also available for multiple countries, not just one particular region or area, and it’s updated daily.