Google is to launch a local version of its Google Flu Trends application, which launched in the US last year.
The application is based on the theory that searches for flu-related topics are closely correlated to the actual spread of flu.
By tallying the daily searchers for flu, Google Flu Trends can theoretically provide early detection of flu outbreaks.
Google says that developed the local version of its Flu Trends application by working with historical seasonal flu data from the Victorian Infectious Diseases Reference Laboratory (VIDRL), as well as its own anonymised, aggregated historical search data, to build a flu model for the state of Victoria.
It then extrapolated the model to produce flu models at a national and state level for the rest of Australia -- apart from Tasmania and the Northern Territory for which it doesn't have a large enough volume of search queries to be accurate.
Heath Kelly, the head of the Epidemiology Unit at the Victorian Infectious Diseases Reference Laboratory said that Influenza experts recommend gathering information from multiple sources to best understand and monitor influenza activity.
As such, Google Flu Trends provided a valuable and timely additional source of data that can help identify trends in influenza activity.
"Having additional sources of data will be even more important than usual in the current influenza season, with the circulation of novel influenza A (H1N1), commonly known as swine flu, already established in Victoria,” he said in a statement.
“The initial data from Google look promising, and researchers from VIDRL and the University of Queensland look forward to working with Google to further refine the monitoring of influenza in Australia."
In April Google began compiling information from swine flu-related Google searches in Mexico to map out how the disease is spreading through the country.
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