Media Bias and Google Flu Trends

By now, everyone knows about H1N1.  Many people also know about Google’s Flu Trends.

Here’s my question:

  • Is all of the media coverage on H1N1 influencing Flu Trends to report more activity than exists?

In the past, I’ve found Flu Trends to be pretty accurate, and a decent indicator of when I should start really watching out for flu-like symptoms, or redouble my hand-washing efforts, or stock up on soup.

This year?  Not so much.  Look at today’s snapshot:

Google Flu Trends - 10/12/2009

Google Flu Trends - 10/12/2009

I have not seen “high” flu activity where I live.  But – I have seen plenty of news stories, fliers, ads, and other flu-related things.  Does this increase in terms (which Flu Trends uses to determine activity levels) match reality?

So far, I’d say no.  I’m hopeful that Flu Trends either finds a way to filter this input out, or people realize that H1N1 is really no worse/different/dangerous/etc. than the regular seasonal flu.  It’s true – virology professors say so:

As far as I know, the 2009 H1N1 strain has so far likely infected millions of people, and most have concluded that the disease is no more severe than seasonal influenza.  I agree that the 2009 H1N1 influenza virus does seem to multiply more extensively in the respiratory tract than a seasonal H1N1 strain, as does the 1918 virus.

Let’s hope that I make it flu-free until February.  After that, it becomes luck of the draw, I’ve determined.  I mean – look at the trends!


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