An Alarm System for Flu Outbreaks Using Google Flu Trend Data

Conference paper
Part of the ICSA Book Series in Statistics book series (ICSABSS)


Outbreaks of influenza pose a serious threat to communities and hospital resources. It is important for health care providers not only to know the seasonal trend of influenza, but also to be alarmed when unusual outbreaks occur as soon as possible for more efficient, proactive resource allocation. Google Flu Trends data showed a good match in trend patterns, albeit not in exact occurrences, with the proportion of physician visits attributed to influenza from the Centers for Disease Control, and, hence, provide a timely, inexpensive data source to develop an alarm system for outbreaks of influenza. For the State of Connecticut, using weekly Google Flu Trends data from 2003 to 2012, an exponentially weighted moving average control chart was developed after removing the seasonal trend from the observed data. The control chart was tested with the 2013–2015 data from the Center for Disease Control, and was able to issue an alarm at the unusually earlier outbreak in the 2012–2013 season.


Control chart Exponentially weighted moving average process Influenza Statistical process control 


Conflict of Interest

The authors have declared no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of StatisticsUniversity of ConnecticutStorrsUSA
  2. 2.Division of Behavioral Science and Community HealthUniversity of Connecticut Health CenterFarmingtonUSA
  3. 3.Center for Public Health and Health PolicyUniversity of Connecticut Health CenterFarmingtonUSA
  4. 4.Department of BiostatisticsHarvard T.H. Chan School of Public HealthBostonUSA

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