In a recent post, I discussed how the Internet is beginning to show lots of potential as an important resource for medical research. Here is another example:
The CDC tracks the flu every year because, believe it or not, the flu takes the lives of more than 40,000 US citizens every year. Beyond the deaths, the flu can cost society a great deal of money, $10 billion in medical costs alone, and even more in lost productivity and wages. Because the flu often erupts in a particular area, the CDC likes to track where the flu is and where it is headed. Time is of the essence: the sooner they know about an epidemic, the more they can do about it.
In 2008, Google began tracking which regions of the country were searching key words that were associated with the flu. They compared their flu data to the data released by the CDC, and found that they could predict when the flu would flare up a whole two weeks sooner than the CDC!
Both the CDC and Google recently got back to flu hunting because the flu season just started. The Flu season typically begins in October and lasts until May. The CDC recommends that every one over the age of 6 months get vaccinated every year, but it is especially important for people with chronic medical conditions, people over 50 years old, pregnant women, and health-care professionals.
Instead of using the Internet to dig up cold and flu remedies this winter, be proactive and get your flu vaccine this month.
Dr. Bruce Feinberg