This does sound odd at first, but through Google, flu trends in America are now trackable. How is this done? It has been found that a new common symptom of the flu includes Americans entering phrases like “flu symptoms” into Google and other search engines before seeing a doctor.
That simple act, multiplied across millions of keyboards in homes around the country, has given rise to a new early warning system for fast-spreading flu outbreaks, called Google Flu Trends.
In early February, for example, the C.D.C. reported that the flu cases had recently spiked in the mid-Atlantic states. But Google says its search data show a spike in queries about flu symptoms two weeks before that report was released. Its new service at google.org/flutrends analyzes those searches as they come in, creating graphs and maps of the country that, ideally, will show where the flu is spreading.
Check out Google Flu Trends for yourself here.