Finally in the news for nurses this week is a look at how internet technology and social media trends are being used to track the season flu outbreaks in an area. What would you do if you could get real-time data on flu outbreaks in a region anytime you wanted it? If you were a public health nurse it would be the coolest thing ever.

Flu Season Prediction Technology

Woman-Wiping-Nose-FluResearchers at Boston’s Children’s Hospital looked at ways they can use real-time data from multiple sources on and off-line to see flu and other disease trends as they occur. Seasonal flu causes up to a half million deaths annually around the world. Up to 50,000 of those deaths happen in the U.S.

If we could sense a regional flu outbreak at its outset, we could make changes in the local public health response to get more people vaccinated and other initiatives. The researchers looked at a number of data sources to try and track the progress of flu outbreaks including the electronic health records of local hospitals, data on Google searches and Google Flu Trends, and other sources like Twitter posts. they took this data and then retroactively looked at actual flu trends in the fall 2013 through winter 2015 flu seasons. They found that, when taken collectively, their combination data predictions outpaced all local predictive models used to date.

Their predictive model paired perfectly with the CDC’s own retroactive reports on the Flu outbreaks in those years. So look for this to be used in a broader application this year in an effort to verify this initial study. In future years we might have a head start on the flu that saves lives and livelihoods.

Make sure you follow-up on the links for this news item and all of the other news and additional resource links from this week’s episode – Sepsis Alliance Nursing Resources and Episode 370.

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