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How Google can predict where the next coronavirus hotspot will be

Published: (Updated: ) in Australian News by .

A US study has found a link between a spike in Google searches for certain ailments and the development of COVID-19 hotspots a month later.

With the world in the grip of the coronavirus pandemic, it is not surprising Doctor Google is working overtime as people search for an explanation when they feel unwell.

Now a US study has found a link between a spike in Google searches for certain ailments and the development of COVID-19 hotspots a month later.

The research, by Massachusetts General Hospital, used Google Trends tools to study search trends by state during the period between January 20 to April 20 this year.

They found a spike in searches for gastrointestinal symptoms preceded the rise in COVID-19 cases in that state in the following weeks.

The study, published in the journal Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology, specifically found searches for loss of taste and loss of appetite correlated most strongly with the rise in COVID-19 cases in high-incidence states.

This was the case in New York, New Jersey, California, Massachusetts and Illinois. All the states presented high case numbers three to four weeks after the spike in searches.

"As the lag time between search volume and COVID incidence increased, correlation increased - with the strongest relationship at three to four weeks," Director of Massachusetts General's gastrointestinal motility laboratory Kyle Staller wrote in the study..

"Thus, searches for GI symptoms preceded the rise in reported COVID-19 in a predictable fashion.

"Our data underscores the importance of GI symptoms as a potential harbinger of COVID-19 infection and suggests that Google Trends may be a valuable tool for prediction of pandemics."

The method of using Google search trends to predict disease outbreaks has been used before to track outbreaks of influenza.

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In that case the lag time between a spike in symptom searches and an outbreak was shorter, at one to two weeks.

You can get up-to-date information from the Federal Government's Coronavirus Australia app, available on the App Store, Google Play and the Government's WhatsApp channel.

Beyond Blue's Coronavirus Mental Wellbeing Support Service is a 24/7 service free of charge to all Australians. Visit the site here or call 1800512348.

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Source: 9News https://www.9news.com.au/world/how-google-can-predict-where-the-next-coronavirus-hotspot-will-be/bd365c1d-8223-4998-b59a-00a93015cb33

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