12 November 2008

Flu vs. Asthma vs. Pneumonia vs. Bronchitis vs. Sinusitis

Today, I heard on NPR about a new web site: Google Flu Trends. It lets you see where there is more search volume for flu in the US so you can track flu activity by state with comparison for previous years. In other words, this is a Google Insights for Search analysis presented with a more user-friendly interface. It made me think: maybe I should face-off five common diseases?

Worldwide, the flu virus dominated, followed by resp. asthma, pneumonia, bronchitis and sinusitis. The large peaks in October 2004 and October 2005 should correspond with serious flu epidemics. The seasonal aspect of the flu is well known: it occurs in winter. Pneumonia and bronchitis also showed small increases in winter. I proceeded to perform the same analysis for nine English-speaking countries/territories: Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, India, Ireland, New Zealand, South Africa, the UK and the US.

The winter of 2005-2006 was a significant peak for the flu in all these countries, other peaks displayed more variation. Some countries, e.g., Ireland and New Zealand, really only had one flu epidemic while for instance Canada and the US had a flu peak every winter. In India, the diseases' trend lines fell through time, perhaps reflecting better prevention and/or treatment through the years?

There is another way of looking at the data: by disease.

Note that the Philippines were no. 1 three times. Germany, Austria and the Netherlands popped up in the top 10 for bronchitis because the term was exactly the same in German and Dutch, unlike for other diseases.

1 comment:

  1. Great article. Makes me glad I got my flu and pneumonia shots this year. We are currently seeing a lot of pneumonia in my internal medicine practice. Not much flu, YET. We are giving flu shots left and right. With antibiotic resistance and the development of superbugs we have to do all we can to prevent respiratory infections. Good work.