News / Health

Wikipedia Proves Useful for Tracking Flu

A boy gets an influenza vaccine injection at a health care clinic, in Boston, Massachusetts, January 12, 2013.
A boy gets an influenza vaccine injection at a health care clinic, in Boston, Massachusetts, January 12, 2013.

Related Articles

Deadly Virus Surges Through Gulf States

Saudi health authorities are embarking on a variety of measures to prevent further spread of 18-month-long outbreak
Scientists may have figured out the best way yet to track the spread of flu:  Watch how many people visit Wikipedia articles about the flu and its symptoms.
 
Researchers at Boston Children's Hospital, Harvard Medical School, say the technique bests the Center for Disease Control’s (CDC) estimate of flu levels by up to two weeks. It also bettered Google’s Flu Trends data by 17 percent, researchers said.
 
“Having a timely estimate of what is happening in the population is crucial to being able to accurately plan for vaccines strategies and to coordinate public health and medical personnel,” said Dr. David McIver, one of the study’s authors. “The earlier we are able to know what the flu burden is, the better we will be able distribute resources and limit disease spread.”
 
The CDC estimates the flu kills between 3,000 and 49,000 Americans each year.
 
"Each influenza season provides new challenges and uncertainties to both the public as well as the public health community,” the team wrote in a statement. “We're hoping that with this new method of influenza monitoring, we can harness publicly available data to help people get accurate, near-realtime information about the level of disease burden in the population."
 
To come up with their data, researchers McIver and Dr. John Brownstein, “calculated the number of times certain Wikipedia articles were accessed every day from December 2007 to August 2013.”
 
According to McIver, they looked at 35 Wikipedia articles in total, including several that were meant to act as beacons of normal website traffic, such as the Wikipedia Main Page.
 
The researchers said their model worked well during “severe” flu seasons as well as during the outbreak of H1N1in 2009.
 
While the data proved speedy when predicting the spread of flu, McIver doesn’t think it should replace data from the CDC or Google.
 
“It would be tough to say that this data is better than CDC data - they are very different sources of information,” he said. “All methods of estimating flu activity have their pros and cons. The best tool for measuring this type of disease burden will probably end up being a system that combines different types of data together, to get a greater overview of what is really happening in the population.”
 
The study was published in PLoS Computational Biology.

You May Like

EU Court Fines Poland for Hosting CIA 'Black Sites'

Ruling is first time a court has acknowledged suspects were held and tortured at the sites, under US program launched following the 9/11 terrorist attacks More

Migrant Issues Close to Home Spur Groups to Take Action

Groups placing water, food in the desert, or aiding detainees after release, have one common goal: no more deaths of migrants crossing illegally into the US More

Video At AIDS Conference, Prevention Pill Stirs Excitement

Truveda shows promise, spurring debate over access and other approaches More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Israel Targets Gaza Supply Tunnelsi
X
July 24, 2014 4:42 AM
The Israeli military has launched a ground operation in Gaza to destroy the myriad tunnels that may have been used to smuggle weapons to Hamas. VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports that could mean more hardship for the people of Gaza, who obtain some of their essential supplies through these underground passages
Video

Video Israel Targets Gaza Supply Tunnels

The Israeli military has launched a ground operation in Gaza to destroy the myriad tunnels that may have been used to smuggle weapons to Hamas. VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports that could mean more hardship for the people of Gaza, who obtain some of their essential supplies through these underground passages
Video

Video MH17's 'Black Boxes' Could Reveal Crash Details

The government of Malaysia now has custody of the cockpit voice and flight data recorders from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, which was hit by a missile over Ukraine before crashing last week. As VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports, the so-called black boxes may hold information about the final minutes of the flight.
Video

Video Living in the Shadows Panel Discussion

Following a screening of the new VOA documentary, "AIDS - Living in the Shadows," at the World AIDS conference in Melbourne, a panel discussed the film and how to combat the stigma associated with HIV/AIDS.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Relic of Saint Draws Catholics Worried About Immigration Issue

A Roman Catholic saint who is a figure of devotion for those crossing the border into the United States is attracting believers concerned about the plight of undocumented immigrants. Mike O'Sullivan reports from Los Angeles, where a relic of Saint Toribio has drawn thousands to local churches.
Video

Video US Awards Medal of Honor for Heroics in Bloodiest of Afghan Battles

U.S. combat troops are withdrawing from Afghanistan, on pace to leave the country by the end of this year. But on Monday, U.S. President Barack Obama took time to honor a soldier whose actions while under fire in Afghanistan earned him the Medal of Honor. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from the Pentagon.
Video

Video Ukraine Rebels Surrender MH17 Black Boxes

After days of negotiations, a senior separatist leader handed over two black boxes from an airliner downed over eastern Ukraine to Malaysian experts early Tuesday. While on Monday, the U.N. Security Council unanimously demanded that armed groups controlling the crash site allow safe and unrestricted access to the wreckage.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.

AppleAndroid