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Data Spec for Flu Shot Locations and other Health GIS News

Friday, February 15th 2013
By Adena Schutzberg

Folks working on a data specification for flu shot locations are looking for input. The Google Doc is open to comments.

via mheadd via @timoreilly

It seems Google Flu Tracker over estimated this years peak. Why?

But the latest US flu season seems to have confounded its algorithms. Its estimate for the Christmas national peak of flu is almost double the CDC’s (see ‘Fever peaks’), and some of its state data show even larger discrepancies.

It is not the first time that a flu season has tripped Google up. In 2009, Flu Trends had to tweak its algorithms after its models badly underestimated ILI in the United States at the start of the H1N1 (swine flu) pandemic — a glitch attributed to changes in people’s search behaviour as a result of the exceptional nature of the pandemic (S. Cook et al. PLoS ONE 6, e23610; 2011).

Google would not comment on thisyear’s difficulties. But several researchers suggest that the problems may be due to widespread media coverage of this year’s severe US flu season, including the declaration of a public-health emergency by New York state last month. The press reports may have triggered many flu-related searches by people who were not ill. Few doubt that Google Flu will bounce back after its models are refined, however.

- Nature via @cageyjames

New research in Australia has investigated the relationship between risk of  Ross River virus (RRV) infection and proximity to mosquito-breeding habitat, using the Leschenault Estuary as a case study.

RRV is a mosquito-borne disease that occurs throughout many areas of Australia. Activity of RRV is largely dependent on environmental conditions favouring mosquito breeding.
Unusually wet conditions in late spring and early summer can lead to large numbers of mosquito vectors of RRV on the South West coast. ...
It is the first study in Australia to use GIS to examine the links between risk of mosquito-borne disease and proximity of residence to known mosquito-breeding habitat.
Department of Health Lead researcher Dr Michael Lindsay says “opportunities for such studies are limited by availability of reliable data about time and place of exposure of a statistically significant number of patients with confirmed infection”.
Geographic information systems (GIS) were used to map historical RRV case data from the Leschenault region during one of the largest outbreaks in WA, between July 1995 and June 1996.

Results suggest mosquito mitigation may be part of development in RRV regions.

- Science Network Western Australia

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