The next time bird flu, swine flu, or any other nasty bug strikes, it'll be possible to get a significantly better idea of the effects worldwide. Today, Google Flu Trends started processing information in eight more countries.
Google decided to focus on the southern hemisphere - where it will soon be the winter flu season - with this update, and Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay, Peru, South Africa, and Uruguay are the specific countries for which the company will now show national (and sometimes regional) estimates of flu activity.
A post on the Official Google.org Blog noted, "This can be especially important when people from many countries converge in one place, like in South Africa for the World Cup. South Africa is the first country we're adding in Africa, and we hope Google Flu Trends will provide useful information for football fans and foes alike."
Then Google chose to conduct a more minor update covering a couple of other countries, as well, revising its Flu Trends models for Australia and New Zealand for the sake of increased accuracy.
Let's hope that all of this helps address concerns about Google Flu Trends, or better yet, that enough people stay well to make it a moot point.