Using internet search queries for infectious disease surveillance: screening diseases for suitability

Milinovich, Gabriel J., Avril, Simon M R, Clements, Archie C A, Brownstein, John S, Tong, Shilu, & Hu, Wenbiao (2014) Using internet search queries for infectious disease surveillance: screening diseases for suitability. BMC Infectious Diseases, 14:690(1), pp. 1-9.

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Abstract

Background

Internet-based surveillance systems provide a novel approach to monitoring infectious diseases. Surveillance systems built on internet data are economically, logistically and epidemiologically appealing and have shown significant promise. The potential for these systems has increased with increased internet availability and shifts in health-related information seeking behaviour. This approach to monitoring infectious diseases has, however, only been applied to single or small groups of select diseases. This study aims to systematically investigate the potential for developing surveillance and early warning systems using internet search data, for a wide range of infectious diseases.

Methods

Official notifications for 64 infectious diseases in Australia were downloaded and correlated with frequencies for 164 internet search terms for the period 2009–13 using Spearman’s rank correlations. Time series cross correlations were performed to assess the potential for search terms to be used in construction of early warning systems.

Results

Notifications for 17 infectious diseases (26.6%) were found to be significantly correlated with a selected search term. The use of internet metrics as a means of surveillance has not previously been described for 12 (70.6%) of these diseases. The majority of diseases identified were vaccine-preventable, vector-borne or sexually transmissible; cross correlations, however, indicated that vector-borne and vaccine preventable diseases are best suited for development of early warning systems.

Conclusions

The findings of this study suggest that internet-based surveillance systems have broader applicability to monitoring infectious diseases than has previously been recognised. Furthermore, internet-based surveillance systems have a potential role in forecasting emerging infectious disease events, especially for vaccine-preventable and vector-borne diseases

Impact and interest:

6 citations in Scopus
4 citations in Web of Science®
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ID Code: 82570
Item Type: Journal Article
Refereed: Yes
Keywords: infectious diseases, parasitology, medical microbiology, tropical medicine, internal medicine
DOI: 10.1186/s12879-014-0690-1
ISSN: 1471-2334
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Faculty of Health
Current > Schools > School of Public Health & Social Work
Funding:
Copyright Owner: 2014 Milinovich et al.; licensee BioMed Central.
Copyright Statement: This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly credited. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver (http://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/) applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.
Deposited On: 19 Mar 2015 01:58
Last Modified: 19 Mar 2015 21:50

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