Okay, so Google Flu Trends has been around since November of 2008. But Google has found that certain search terms are good indicators of flu activity.
Check out the world map below to see how Google Flu Trends uses aggregated Google search data to estimate flu activity. It is intense in Canada and Norway. It is high in Belgium, Bulgaria, Hungary, Sweden, Russia, Ukraine, and the United States.
Each week, millions of users around the world search for health information online. As you might expect, there are more flu-related searches during flu season, more allergy-related searches during allergy season, and more sunburn-related searches during the summer.
You can explore all of these phenomena using Google Insights for Search. But can search query trends provide the basis for an accurate, reliable model of real-world phenomena?
Google has found a close relationship between how many people search for flu-related topics and how many people actually have flu symptoms. Of course, not every person who searches for “flu” is actually sick, but a pattern emerges when all the flu-related search queries are added together.
Google compared its query counts with traditional flu surveillance systems and found that many search queries tend to be popular exactly when flu season is happening. By counting how often Google sees these search queries, it can estimate how much flu is circulating in different countries and regions around the world. Their results have been published in the journal Nature.
So, according to the world map, now would be a great time to visit Australia, where flu activity is minimal. Throw another shrimp on the barbie.