Ning S, Yang S, Kou SC. Accurate regional influenza epidemics tracking using Internet search data. Sci Rep. 2019 Mar 27;9(1):5238.
Accurate, high-resolution tracking of influenza epidemics at the regional level helps public health agencies make informed and proactive decisions, especially in the face of outbreaks. Internet users´ online searches offer great potential for the regional tracking of influenza. However, due to the complex data structure and reduced quality of Internet data at the regional level, few established methods provide satisfactory performance. In this article, we propose a novel method named ARGO2 (2-step Augmented Regression with GOogle data) that efficiently combines publicly available Google search data at different resolutions (national and regional) with traditional influenza surveillance data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for accurate, real-time regional tracking of influenza. ARGO2 gives very competitive performance across all US regions compared with available Internet-data-based regional influenza tracking methods, and it has achieved 30% error reduction over the best alternative method that we numerically tested for the period of March 2009 to March 2018. ARGO2 is reliable and robust, with the flexibility to incorporate additional information from other sources and resolutions, making it a powerful tool for regional influenza tracking, and potentially for tracking other social, economic, or public health events at the regional or local level.
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