Reports: Google Flu Trends may have overestimated epidemic

Experts say existing tracking systems still needed

NEW YORK — Google seems to have found a nifty niche for itself with Google Flu Trends, which seeks to track the influenza outbreak by monitoring Web searches for flu-related topics, but its accuracy may be in doubt, according to published reports.

Nature reported that a comparison between data from Google Flu Trends and official surveillance data found that the Google tool had overestimated peak flu levels. Nevertheless, according to Nature, the problem is minor, and the Internet services giant will probably be able to fix it.

Traditionally, flu tracking has been the work of agencies like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the United States and France's Sentinelles network. Nature quoted a French epidemiologist as saying that newer systems for tracking flu depend too much on existing ones.

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