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Can Internet Searches Provide Useful Data For Public Health Surveillance?


 Internet-based technologies have been used to assist in disease surveillance and reporting.  The Public Health Agency of Canada operates the Global Public Health Information Network, credited with early notification of many outbreaks (including SARS) through automated multilingual analysis of internet media sources such as news wires and web pages( An innovative web-based forum ( collects foodborne illness reports from visitors to a web site and has been used to identify foodborne outbreaks in Michigan (1).   Health-related topics are among the most popular Internet searches. Many individuals experiencing symptoms of illness conduct Internet searches prior to seeking medical attention.  An early site-based study found limited utility to monitoring of Internet queries (2), but recent developments merit re-examination of the potential of internet searches for public health surveillance purposes.


To evaluate whether trends in internet searches might provide useful data for public health surveillance.

Submitted by elamb on