Benefits of Google flu trends

Google flu trends with a new algorithm

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Christian Kunz

Google has adjusted the algorithm for its flu prediction tool "Flu Trends" in the USA and wants to use it to achieve more accurate predictions. In the past, the tool often predicted too many flu cases.

Google flu trends has existed since 2008. Google now uses between 50 and 300 search terms for 29 countries and evaluates the number of search queries in order to predict the likelihood of flu epidemics.

In the USA, data from the American Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) from the previous year have also been included. Machine learning techniques were used. The forecasting algorithm was retrained once a year and then used during the flu season.

What is new is that Google Flu Trends for the USA continuously includes the CDC data instead of just once a year, as was previously the case. One would like to achieve a more precise forecast with this. This is what Google writes on his official blog.

Google does not provide any information about which search terms are used for the forecast. However, it can be assumed that, as a further improvement, a distinction will be made between those search queries that are only made out of curiosity and concern and those search queries from people with symptoms. A previous lack of this distinction could be one of the reasons for the too high forecast rate in the past.

In addition to the flu trends, Google has now created another prediction tool: Dengue fever trends.