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Google's new Flu Trends site is weeks ahead of the CDC at predicting outbreaks. It also comes with some nifty colorful charts.  (Source: Google.org)
Getting sick? Google knew you were going to...

If there's one Silicon Valley firm that's wildly creative it's Google.  Sure Microsoft might make all encompassing OS's and miss few details, Nintendo may make intuitive gaming devices, and Apple may make the most chic portable electronics, but these companies fall short of Google in terms of sheer zaniness of some of their ideas.

Perhaps it’s the playpens of multi-colored balls, or maybe something in the water, but ideas that anyone else would think of as crazy, Google not only listens to -- it goes for on a continual basis.  A perfect example was Google Goggles, a new Gmail API aimed at preventing you from drunk emailing.

Now the realm of weird, but strangely useful Google Apps has another addition -- Google Flu Trends.  Google Flu Trends is an initiative of Google.org, Google's philanthropic arm.

The device's base mechanic is either brilliant or invasive.  It tracks user searches of topics such as "flu symptoms" or "muscle aches" by location.  By aggregating this data and correlating it to location, Google Flu Trends develops maps of where flu outbreaks are occurring.

How accurate is Google Flu Trends?  On average, it has begun to pick up outbreaks a couple weeks before the Centers For Disease Control, the critical government organization tasked with tracking disease, can.  Considering the amount of medical data in the hands of the CDC and its vast funding, Google Flu Trends' superior accuracy is yet another impressive or perhaps scary testament to Google's power and all-seeing eye.

The new site has the potential to save lives as the flu still kills many elderly people and those with compromised immune systems yearly.  By identifying outbreak zones, hand washing protocols can be emphasized, public awareness campaigns can be carried out, and people can take supplements geared towards strengthening the immune system.

Google is diligently sharing its reports with the Epidemiology and Prevention Branch of the Influenza Division at CDC, perhaps to the Center's chagrin. 

If you want to check them out for yourself, you can head over to the main site.

What will Google dream up next?  It's hard to say, but nothing seems impossible for the Swiss-Army knife-like company. 



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vaccinations?
By Murloc on 11/12/2008 1:19:40 PM , Rating: 2
if death is a problem, why not vaccinate?
hand-washing doesn't saves you from flu.




RE: vaccinations?
By pyr0m on 11/12/2008 1:34:52 PM , Rating: 2
Brilliant! I shall ensure that Google starts immediately.


RE: vaccinations?
By Jimbo1234 on 11/12/2008 1:40:42 PM , Rating: 2
It certainly reduces your risk of contracting it from things people has touched with their flu slimed hands.


RE: vaccinations?
By foolsgambit11 on 11/12/2008 8:31:55 PM , Rating: 2
I'm guessing the problem is something about how the vaccination weakens your immune system for the first couple of days, making you more susceptible to contracting the full-blown flu. Plus, there's always a good chance the vaccine isn't for the right strain, and will weaken your immune system at a critical time without providing any benefits.

But mostly, I don't think the CDC would justify reallocating vaccine doses based on Google's say so without more real world testing. For now, they'll stick to their tried and true method of identifying hot spots. Just my guess.


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