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Mayo study shows web searches can help experts predict, respond to COVID-19 hot spots

Jaclyn Harold
Updated: October 22, 2020 06:24 PM
Created: October 22, 2020 01:49 PM

(ABC 6 News) - Mayo Clinic has released a new study showing that web searches can help experts predict and respond to COVID-19 hot spots. 

According to a press release from Mayo Clinic, strong correlations were found between keyword searches and COVID-19 outbreaks in parts of the U.S. The release said the correlations were observed up to 16 days before the first reported cases in some states. 

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"Our study demonstrates that there is information present in Google Trends that precedes outbreaks, and with predictive analysis, this data can be used for better allocating resources with regards to testing, personal protective equipment, medications and more," says Mohamad Bydon, M.D., a Mayo Clinic neurosurgeon and principal investigator at Mayo's Neuro-Informatics Laboratory.

Dr. Bydon said the study does not violate any individual privileges regarding privacy, but instead, it gives health officials an idea of potential outbreaks in a specific city, county, or state based on how many people are searching those keywords.

"It's actually really an ingenious way that Mayo Clinic is actually pinpointing where people are searching specific search terms so they can identify where they're going to need resources in the future," said Josh Merrick, the Owner of Buzz Geek out of Minneapolis.

Merrick, works to move websites up on search engines. He said web searches are a great tool for gathering data based on trends. He explained that based on when a person searches a specific word, that search is complied with other searches in the same area, regarding the same keywords and all of that information can be used to determine a common denominator. 

Dr. Bydon said for the most accurate information, you should be seeking answers from your doctor when it comes to any kind of symptoms you may have. However, in this case, searching for your symptoms online is actually helping researchers during the pandemic.

The study searched for 10 keywords that were chosen based on how commonly they were used and emerging patterns on the internet and in Google News at that time.

The keywords were:

  • COVID symptoms
  • Coronavirus symptoms
  • Sore throat+shortness of breath+fatigue+cough
  • Coronavirus testing center
  • Loss of smell
  • Lysol
  • Antibody
  • Face mask
  • Coronavirus vaccine
  • COVID stimulus check

For more information on the study, click here.


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