With the influenza outbreak in the U.S. now officially considered an epidemic by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the jury is still out on whether the performance of Google Flu Trends is up to snuff.

Launched in the U.S. in 2008, Google Flu Trends uses aggregated web search data to estimate flu activity in near real-time. Estimating the start, peak, and duration of each flu season, the company claims that Google search terms are good indicators of flu levels and that their online service is more finely grained geographically and is more immediate—up to 1-2 weeks ahead of traditional methods such as the CDC’s official reports. At the same time, Google Flu Trends emphasizes that it “is not designed to be a replacement for traditional surveillance networks or supplant the need for laboratory-based diagnoses and surveillance."  

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