The good news about companies competing to get information about the flu out to the public is that said public now has abundant resources to stay informed. Microsoft and Google are both promoting their flu sites this week; here's the lowdown:
"If current estimates are correct, many emergency departments across the nation could be overwhelmed by two groups of patients -- those who have H1N1 and those who believe they have H1N1," said Angela Gardner, M.D., FACEP, president of the American College of Emergency Physicians.
"By providing an at-home tool that can help users evaluate whether they need to see a provider before they head to the hospital, we can encourage those who are severely ill or at risk for serious illness to contact their doctor, and reassure everyone else that it is safe and prudent to recover at home," Dr. Arthur Kellermann, professor of emergency medicine and an associate dean of the Emory School of Medicine.
Keeping the infected and uninfected separated is crucial to preventing the spread of the H1N1 flu.
"This will reduce the number of people needlessly exposed to H1N1 influenza in crowded clinic and ER waiting rooms, and allow doctors and nurses to focus their attention on those who need them most."
Meanwhile, Google has expanded their flu trends to include 16 additional countries. The site, which launched last November, is now available in 37 different languages. Google says that it does not use popular terms such as the colloquial "swine flu" because many searchers are simply looking it up due to news headlines. Instead, Google uses CDC data to corroborate flu-related search terms. In countries, such as Mexico, where they do not have historical data, they use seasonality to help determine relevant searches. They've also labeled such efforts as "experimental" since they're based purely on search.