April 7 (UPI) — Millions of people around the world enter their health symptoms into Google’s search box every day, according tomedia reports. Researchers can help identify unknown outbreak areas, especially areas where test kits are scarce. For example, to learn about the potential in Google data, you can search for “I can’t smell.”
There is now strong evidence that loss of smell is a symptom of the new coronavirus, which some estimates suggest 30-60% of patients have. In the U.S., the highest search esmo searches for “I can’t smell” in the week ending Saturday were new York, New Jersey, Louisiana and Michigan, the four states with the worst outbreaks. The number of searches associated with loss of smell in each state during this period was almost identical to the proportion of people infected in each state.
Researchers at computer scientists at University College London found that symptom-related searches of “loss of smell, fever and shortness of breath” reflected outbreaks around the world.
Because these searches are strongly correlated with infections in areas with good test conditions around the world, researchers can use these search data to identify places where there are many positive cases that may be missed.
Take Ecuador, for example. Ecuador has one of the highest rates of infection in South America, but has a lower infection rate than the United States, Canada, Australia, Iran and most European countries, official figures show.
At the same time, Ecuadorians search for more olfactory loss than any other country in the world, with 10 times as many searches as Spain, although Ecuador’s official lying of infection per capita is more than 10 times that of Spain. Ecuadorians also have the highest number of searches for fever, chills and diarrhoea.
In other words, search data suggest that the outbreak in Ecuador may be more severe than official data suggest.