Google is forging ahead with plans to help curb the tragic spread of Dengue fever around the world.
According to a report from the BBC, Google is using search patterns about the spread of the disease in order to help health officials better prepare for outbreaks. The ultimate goal is to develop “an early-warning system” across Bolivia, Brazil, India, Indonesia and Singapore.
The Internet search giant says that its results are collected in real-time, a huge advantage over the long-established traditional collection and analysis methods, which can extend over a period of several weeks.
Two years ago, Google employed a similar method to track the spread of flu.
“Using the dengue case count data provided by Ministries of Health and the World Health Organization, we’re able to build a model that offers near real-time estimates of dengue activity based on the popularity of certain search terms,” Google software engineer Vikram Sahai says. “Google Dengue Trends is automatically updated every day, thereby providing an early indicator of dengue activity.”
Google says the project was developed in conjunction with Boston’s Children’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School.
Professor Peter Sever, a widely recognized guru in disease prevention from Imperial College London, tells the BBC that Google new effort “could prove very useful for researchers that currently collect data using slower methods.”
“It will of course be highly selective because you’ll be picking out the people who are using Google, but of course year on year that’s an increasing proportion of the population anyway,” Sever said.