Here in Minnesota, the official end of summer is considered by many to be the State Fair. This year the “Great Minnesota Get Together” kicks off this Thursday and runs through Labor Day. As has become tradition, the Nina Hale Team is preparing for our annual team outing to the fair. We will probably ride some rides, look at some fish in the DNR’s concrete pond, and hopefully see some llamas.
What we will not be doing, if the Safety Committee has anything to say about it, is visiting the Swine Barn. Again this year, the midwest has seen a few cases of swine flu transferred from pigs to humans occurring at State Fairs in neighboring states, Wisconsin being the most recent example. Today the Minnesota Department of Health has confirmed the first human case in the state.
As head of the Nina Hale Safety Committee, I strive to stay on top of all potential threats including outbreaks such as swine flu. One of my favorite tools to monitor flu outbreaks throughout the year is Google Flu Trends. This tool has been available for a number of years, but continues to be of interest to me.
The basic concept is that Google aggregates flu-related search queries and uses the location and quantity of searches to model actual flu cases. Given the volume of searches that are made on Google and the amount of historical information available, this prediction can be quite accurate.
While Google Flu Trends does not seem to be registering any impact of the current Swine Flu update in the upper-Midwest, it remains an interesting tool.
With Google’s vast historical information and a high number of searches taking place every day, one wonders what other activities could Google be predicting and how could those predictions be monetized for the company?