Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Using Google to Track MRSA

It’s hard to believe it’s been nearly 3 years since Google launched its Flu Trends site. Flu Trends uses Google search queries to forecast outbreaks of influenza. The simplest example is trending total queries for "flu" over time to see if there are patterns indicating an outbreak. Google’s results found strong correlation between its search-based forecasts and CDC’s actual surveillance data.

Now, a group of out of University of Chicago has used the same approach to forecast MRSA outbreaks. Google search terms for “MRSA” and “staph” were used to predict MRSA hospitalization rate. Like Flu Trends, the MRSA predictor showed strong correlation between predicted and actual outcomes. If subsequent validations hold, Google search trends could be used as a proxy for hospital-reported data to support MRSA surveillance.

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