Google is attempting map how the swine flu is spreading through Mexico by compiling information from swine flu-related searches in Mexico. The mapping effort is based on Google Flu Trends, which Google launched last November after researchers noticed a correlation between people searching for flu information and the number of people who got the flu in any given area. "Google Flu Trends may be able to detect influenza outbreaks earlier than other systems because it estimates flu activity in near real time," says Google Flu Trends engineer Jeremy Ginsberg.
Ginsberg says the current project may produce relatively faulty data because of the lack of available information from the Mexican government. "While we would prefer to validate this data and improve its accuracy, we decided to release an early version today so that it might help public health officials and concerned individuals get an up-to-date picture of the ongoing swine flu outbreak," Ginsberg says. "Our current estimates of flu activity in the U.S. are still generally low as would be expected given the relatively low confirmed swine flu case count. However, we'll be keeping an eye on the data to look for any spike in activity."
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