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Professor hoping Google catches virus trend

A leading infectious disease expert has called on Google to expand its flu trends application to other viruses because of its success tracking the spread of the illness in Australia.
Infectious Diseases and Australian National University microbiology professor Peter Collignon has asked Google to include norovirus, rotavirus and respiratory syncytial virus in the application.

Google Flu Trends uses aggregate search data to create a real-time estimate of flu cases in different Australian regions and around the world.

The theory is that particular search terms correspond to the actual spread of influenza.

Professor Collignon said Google Trends was ''remarkably accurate'' at tracking the spread of flu and was something every health department should adopt as an early warning system.

''I look at it frequently. I have come to the view that if Google Trends isn't showing an uptake we probably don't have influenza in Australia.

''I would like the methodology developed further.

''Where I think there is real potential is with norovirus and rotavirus in children. That's where we don't have good laboratory techniques and these viruses cause epidemics in the community. When people have diseases they look at things more on the net.''

Norovirus is a highly infectious stomach virus which causes vomiting and diarrhoea, while rotavirus is a cause of severe gastroenteritis in young children.
 
 

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