Google using search terms to track Dengue fever outbreaks

Posted Jun 1, 2011 by Michael Krebs
Taking a page from its Flu Trends offering, Google has begun using search terminology to monitor outbreaks of Dengue fever, a particularly nasty mosquito-born virus that impacts populated tropical areas worldwide.
The Aedes aegypti mosquito responsible for yellow fever.
The Aedes aegypti mosquito responsible for yellow fever.
James Gathany / CDC
Google has introduced a new monitoring service for tracking the spread of Dengue fever, BBC News reported on Tuesday.
The new tool will pull Dengue-related search terms in real time to discern the outbreak patterns of the disease to help determine how quickly it may be spreading in a given country or region and where new cases may be originating.
Dengue fever is a resilient mosquito-born virus that stretches across tropical regions from Southeast Asia through Sub-Saharan Africa to Central and South America. Symptoms of the virus include a high fever, often as high as 104-105 degrees Fahrenheit, rash, fatigue, and vomiting, and its cousin Dengue hemorrhagic fever is considerably more severe.
Since Dengue fever is a virus, there is no known cure. Patients can only ride out the symptoms, as they would an exposure to influenza.
The incidents of Dengue fever among UK travelers more than doubled in 2010, according to a Reuters report. There were 406 cases of Dengue fever among British travelers in 2010, up from 166 cases in 2009. Most cases were contracted during travel to India.
Dengue fever has also become a US threat, with Florida communities preparing to prevent outbreaks of the disease during the upcoming rainy season, according to the Miami Herald.
Google's Dengue fever tracking tool is derived from their Flu Trends offering. Flu Trends has been used to monitor outbreaks of influenza, with a particular focus on monitoring fast-moving epidemics and pandemics in real time. Infection Control Today reports that the Google Flu Trends tool is also being used to monitor MRSA infections.
Victims of an infection are likely to want to learn more about the given species inside them and to understand more fully what they can expect in terms of symptoms and the duration of the sickness. Since Google is a common global search engine, their queries can be monitored, and the results can paint a telling picture.