Internet more comprehensive in tracking epidemics

January 11th, 2012 - 7:58 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, Jan 11 (IANS) Monitoring the Internet may prove to be a better way for hospital authorities to prepare for epidemics, compared to waiting for outdated official reports.

Researchers from Johns Hopkins Medicine reported a strong correlation between a rise in Internet searches for flu information, compiled by Google’s Flu Trends tool, and a subsequent rise in people approaching the emergency room complaining of flu.

Hopkins researchers tracked and reviewed Google Flu Trends data for Baltimore City, along with data on people seeking care, at the emergency departments of Johns Hopkins Hospital from January 2009, to October 2010.

Richard Rothman, emergency medicine physician and researcher at the Johns Hopkins and senior study investigator, says the results show promise for eventually developing a standard regional or national early warning system for frontline health care workers.

Rothman and lead study investigator Andrea Dugas, recently hosted a national conference in Baltimore of experts from around the country to discuss the implications of their findings.

In the long term, says Rothman, the Johns Hopkins team hopes to develop a highly reliable flu surveillance model that all emergency departments could use to reasonably predict a spike in the number of flu-like cases.

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