BOSTON, May 31 (UPI) -- Researchers at Children's Hospital Boston and Google say Web-based search data can be useful in the early detection and monitoring of outbreaks of dengue fever.
Because search data allows the capture of disease-related queries in near real time, it could help public health officials in the more than 100 countries affected by the mosquito-borne respond more quickly to potential epidemics, a CHB release said Tuesday.
An online tool developed by researchers from the Children's Hospital Informatics Program together with collaborators at Google is available online at www.google.org/denguetrends, the release said.
The tool, which tracks epidemics of dengue using Web search results provided by Google, compares well to available national surveillance data as a viable, rapid source of information for early detection and monitoring of dengue outbreaks, the researchers said.
"By using search data, we're tapping into a freely-available, instant data set that can be gathered, analyzed, and released much more quickly and at much lower effort and cost than through traditional national surveillance and reporting programs," said CHIP head John Brownstein.
"This information can act as a supplement to traditional surveillance and reporting systems and give local authorities a leg up on an outbreak," he said.
Dengue, endemic to countries in Asia, Africa, the Pacific, and the Americas, infects about 500 million people every year.