Google has just announced a new service that uses aggregated search data to track influenza outbreaks. Google Flu Trends is the tool they developed by taking Google Trends and applying it to a public health problem. They found a direct correlation between the flu-related queries and people with the actual flu virus.
This allowed them to create a model for near accurate real-time estimates about outbreaks, and response has been extremely positive from the medical community at large.
Google shared the results of preliminary tests with the Epidemiology and Prevention Branch of the Influenza Division of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) throughout the 2007-2008 flu season and found that their search-based flu estimates were strongly correlated with real CDC surveillance data.
According to Google, “Flu Trends uses aggregated Google search data to estimate flu activity in your state up to two weeks faster than traditional systems.”