Infectious Disease

Disease information-seeking behavior

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Science  24 Jun 2016:
Vol. 352, Issue 6293, pp. 1531
DOI: 10.1126/science.352.6293.1531-a

Google Trends data allow for monitoring of disease outbreaks.

PHOTO: HARTPHOTOGRAPHY/SHUTTERSTOCK.COM

Chicken pox is usually a mild disease of children and, consequently, national vaccination and reporting policies vary widely. In countries that do not immunize against chicken pox, Google Trends recorded a strong seasonal signal in search behavior for information about chicken pox. Tellingly, Bakker et al. found that the seasonal search signal reverses between the Southern and Northern Hemispheres and declines when a country mandates vaccination. Thus, Google data allow for monitoring of an underreported viral infection, forecasting outbreaks and measuring the impact of immunization for chicken pox, and perhaps also for other seasonal childhood infections.

Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 10.1073/pnas.1523941113 (2016).

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