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Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Google to Track Flu Outbreaks Across US

Google is teaming up with the CDC to track flu outbreaks around the nation and give people earlier warnings, ABC News reports. The new site (http://www.google.org/flutrends/) relies on the notion that people turn to the Web when they're sick by typing phrases such as "flu symptoms" into Google searches. By keeping track of such searches and mapping them, the system could beat official CDC warnings by up to two weeks.

“The earlier the warning, the earlier prevention and control measures can be put in place, and this could prevent cases of influenza,” a CDC official told the New York Times. Researchers in the field generally praised the idea but weren't entirely sold. "I think the approach sounds like a reasonable one, but I can think of several reasons why people might want to search for information on the flu," said an epidemiologist with Columbia University.

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