Microsoft is not the only one with some new offerings in the way of health search today. Google has added a slew of new cities to its Flu Trends product. The move is timed well, as the company acknowledges that it is National Influenza Vaccination Week.
"Since the strain of influenza that is active (H1N1) is novel, no one knows exactly what will happen next. However, the CDC is warning that one possibility is a second spike of flu activity, which is what occurred in 1957 when another novel strain of influenza spread in the United States," says Google Software Engineer Matt Mohebbi. "We’ve been chatting with public health officials about new ways we can help people understand the spread of flu during this unusual time and today we’re excited to bring city level flu estimates to 121 cities in the United States."
"By tracking the popularity of certain Google search queries, we’re able to estimate the level of flu in near real-time," says Mohebbi. "Google Flu Trends is updated daily and may provide early detection of flu activity, since traditional flu surveillance systems often take days or weeks to collect and release data."
The city-level estimates provided by Google Flu Trends are considered "experimental" because they have not been validated with official data, but Google says that the estimates are made in a similar manner to its national estimates, which have been validated.
A complete list of the cities Google tracks can be found here.