Nature recently reported on research from the Massachusites Institute of Technolohgy (MIT) that Google’s tool for predicting the number of flu cases, Google Flu Trends, was consistently over estimating the number of cases. This was put down to changes to the google search algorithym, and the introduction of suggested search terms. This was a blow for what many said was a pioneering use of big data to predict and inform planning for seasonal events.
But now David Mclver and John Brownstein from the Boston Children’s Hospital have suggested that public health officials could use Wikipedia to predict seasonal flu trends. By applying the same principles as those behind Google flu Trends, Mclver and Brownstein believe that analysis of American internet traffic to influenza-related pages on the worlds largest encyclopaedia could prove to be a more accurate predictor of seasonal flu patterns.