When a small team of software engineers first started working on Flu Trends in 2008, we wanted to explore how real-world phenomena could be modeled using patterns in search queries. Since its launch, Google Flu Trends has provided useful insights and served as one of the early examples for “nowcasting” based on search trends, which is increasingly used in health, economics, and other fields. Over time, we’ve used search signals to create prediction models, updating and improving those models over time as we compared our prediction to real-world cases of flu.
Instead of maintaining our own website going forward, we’re now going to empower institutions who specialize in infectious disease research to use the data to build their own models. Starting this season, we’ll provide Flu and Dengue signal data directly to partners including Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health (to update their dashboard), Boston Children’s Hospital/Harvard, and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Influenza Division. We will also continue to make historical Flu and Dengue estimate data available for anyone to see and analyze.
Flu continues to affect millions of people every year, and while it’s still early days for nowcasting and similar tools for understanding the spread of diseases like flu and dengue fever—we’re excited to see what comes next. To download the historical data or learn more about becoming a research partner, please visit the Flu Trends web page.