A research team at the Boston Children’s Hospital has developed a methodology that will use the internet traffic on flu-related articles available on Wikipedia to track the rise and fall in flu levels in the United States.
During the study, the researchers found that the newly developed tracking system was delivering the information two weeks prior than the time taken by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to release its flu report.
The system was more advanced as it was able to keep a track on week of peak influenza activity 17 percent more accurately than Google Flu Trends data.
For knowing the flu levels via this new technique, the assessment of internet traffic on Wikipedia articles were done, while Google Flu Trends looks at searches typed into Google.
Study author David McIver, a postdoctoral fellow at Boston Children’s Hospital, said, “We were able to get really nice estimates of what the [flu] level is in the population.”
For the study, the researchers calculated the number of times certain Wiki articles were scrolled every day between December 2007 and August 2013.
“The model performed well both through influenza seasons. Each influenza season provides new challenges and uncertainties to both the public as well as the public health community,” researchers said in a statement.
Flu is considered to be one of the leading killers in the United States. On average, about 24,000 Americans die each flu season, according to the CDC.
According to the health officials, symptoms indicative of the flu include fever, coughing, a sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headaches and fatigue. So, it’s better to have the flu shots.
High-risk people typically include seniors, children between the ages of six months (the earliest point at which flu vaccine is given) and five years, pregnant women and people with certain health conditions. Some also covered are people who care for these high-risk individuals and could transmit flu to them, though the list differs from province to province and people in doubt should check their health ministry’s website or ask a doctor.