News: Can a weather forecast predict disease outbreak?
Overcast with flurries—and a chance of flu season?
It may sounds strange, but “disease forecasting” could be the new model for determining patterns of disease, according to a recent study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
According to the study’s authors, skillful predictions of when flu season will peak can be made more than seven weeks in advance.
In part, their answer came from the magical world of all answers: Google.
The researchers were able make calculations using Google Flu Trends, which provides estimates of the flu based on Internet searches in specific areas.
They also examined weather and flu data spanning a period of six years, and took into account that the flu virus spreads more when the air is dry and cold.
“This work represents an initial step in the development of a statistically rigorous system for real-time forecast of seasonal influenza,” the study’s authors wrote.
Which means we might know exactly when the next flu season will hit, just in time to stock up on tissues, homemade soup ingredients, and a season at least three seasons of our favourite guilty pleasure TV show.
Would you find a tool like this helpful? Do you think you’d take more precautions if you knew when flu season would peak?
-Katharine Watts, Associate Web Editor
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