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Google Predicts Flu Outbreaks

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People’s search inquires have become a public health tool. Google was able to predict flu outbreaks two weeks before the Centers for Disease Control by tracking search inquires related to flu symptoms. The flu trends are part of Google’s Predict & Prevent initiative. In addition to the flu trends, google.org has created HealthMap, an online "Global Disease Alert Map." These tools will serve to aid the public in awareness of risks in their area. However, the predictions only work where people have access to the internet and while Google is the United States’ top search engine, it is not the top search engine in all countries.

This program can warn the public of health risks; but without available treatments, it serves little purpose. Most recently, doctors have become concerned about the flu’s resistence to Tamiflu. The resistence is not caused by over-prescription, but by natural mutation. Because of the resistence to antiviral drugs, vaccinations have become much more important. Health officials warn that flu season has yet to peak and prevention with vaccinations are still the best treatment.