The New York Times reported Google's release of a new website designed to detect regional outbreaks of the flu a week to 10 days before they are reported by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The website is called Google Flu Trends. The site uses aggregate Google search data to estimate flu activity in each state. They believe they can estimate flu activity up to two weeks faster than goverment flu survellance systems. This is not available for Canada as of yet.
The graph below has shows past flu outbreaks from last year. Flu Trends:
"Each week, millions of users around the world search for online health information. As you might expect, there are more flu-related searches during flu season, more allergy-related searches during allergy season, and more sunburn-related searches during the summer. You can explore all of these phenomena using Google Trends. But can search query trends provide an accurate, reliable model of real-world phenomena?"
I am sure this will open up a whole new science where Google uses user searches as suggested above but to what end and what accuracy?
This site can be used in a number of grade levels in a numeracy or literacy exercise to analyze trends and data. If you can come up with some specific practical uses please share with others and comment here! Don't forget to do your own trend searches at Google Trends!