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Google Flu Trends in Canada: a comparison of digital disease surveillance data with physician consultations and respiratory virus surveillance data, 2010–2014

  • L. J. MARTIN (a1), B. E. LEE (a1) and Y. YASUI (a1)

Summary

The value of Google Flu Trends (GFT) remains unclear after it overestimated the proportion of physician visits related to influenza-like illness (ILI) in the United States in 2012–2013. However, GFT estimates (%GFT) have not been examined nationally in Canada nor compared with positivity for respiratory viruses other than influenza. For 2010–2014, we compared %GFT for Canada to Public Health Agency of Canada ILI consultation rates (%PHAC) and to positivity for influenza A and B, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), human metapneumovirus (hMPV), and rhinoviruses. %GFT correlated well with %PHAC (ρ = 0·77–0·90) and influenza A positivity (ρ = 0·64–0·96) and overestimated the 2012–2013 %PHAC peak by 0·99 percentage points. %GFT peaks corresponded temporally with peaks in positivity for influenza A and rhinoviruses (all seasons) and RSV and hMPV when their peaks preceded influenza peaks. In Canada, %GFT represented traditional surveillance data and corresponded temporally with patterns in circulating respiratory viruses.

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Copyright

Corresponding author

* Author for correspondence: Dr L. J. Martin, School of Public Health, University of Alberta, 4-057A Edmonton Clinic Health Academy, 11405 87th Avenue, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, T6G 1C9. (Email: leah.martin@ualberta.ca) (Email: yyasui@ualberta.ca)

References

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