A study has revealed that Wikipedia page views could predict disease outbreaks before official health advice.
Wikipedia could be used to trace and predict disease outbreaks globally, such as dengue and influenza, about a month before official health advice, researchers from Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) in New Mexico have deduced.
The researchers successfully monitored influenza outbreaks in the US, Poland, Japan and Thailand, dengue fever in Brazil and Thailand, and tuberculosis in China and Thailand. The team was also able to forecast all but one of the studied outbreaks (tuberculosis in China) at least 28 days in advance.
As per the study, published in journal PLOS Computational Biology, Wikipedia page views can highlight certain trends, which, if kept a track of, could help the health community stay one step ahead of the epidemics. This concept makes sense as the first thing people do when they are ill is search for disease-related information online on Wikipedia before they seek medical attention.
The research highlights the potential to transfer ‘trained’ computer models across different regions, by using public health data in one location and implementing the model in another region. For instance, researchers could create models using data from Japan to track and forecast a disease in Thailand. This could hold great significance for countries that do not have reliable disease data to offer, researchers stated.
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