Preventing the Flu with Big Data

by Angela Guess

Julie Bort of Business Insider reports, “If you’ve heard it once, you’ve heard it a million times: Get a flu shot. But how come that works? There are countless strains of flu, so unlike vaccines for childhood illnesses, you have to get a flu shot every year. Once is not enough. It works because of a massive collaboration of doctors, hospitals, and labs that report mega amounts of data to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). The CDC fields some 700,000 reports of patents with flu-like symptoms per week. During flu season, doctors will send more than 5,000 lab tests to the CDC for further analysis.”

She goes on, “Using that data, the CDC has created complex flu-tracking systems to determine things like: what strains of flu should go in the annual flu vaccine (which is changed twice a year); is this year’s flu outbreak the kind of flu that will respond well to anti-viral drugs; how deadly the flu is. The flu season is in full swing right now, according to data analyzed by Lynnette Brammer, a flu epidemiologist at the Centers for Disease Control and the woman that helped Google create its flu tracking system.”

Read more here.

photo credit: USACE Europe District

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