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STI Spread Predicted by Google Search

Thinkprogress.org
Google has many uses. One of which you may not have thought of is that researchers are able to turn the search engine's queries into crunchable data when it comes to sexually transmitted infections. STI cases have steadily been on the rise since 2006, with many blaming social dating apps such as Tinder and Grindr for the increase. As internet users continue to search their symptoms online, academics are able to mine this information in collaboration with Google to follow trends in the spread of such infections.

The University of Illionois at Chicago is one of four institutions (along the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) that are using the methods in order to monitor emerging cases in real time. For example, if more people at a certain time are searching symptoms of 'painful urination', this is likely to corroborate with higher cases of gonorrhoea. By keeping tabs, scientists hope to be able to predict the time and whereabouts of the next likely outbreak.

Sexual diseases are definitely still something of a societal taboo despite their commonality, so it's comforting to know that progress can be made by pooling information. And all without jeopardising the anonymity of sufferers, which is key to gaining public trust. There are still people out there who struggle to talk about such personal issues openly with medical professionals, which is likely to hinder statistics. This way, confidentiality is guaranteed whilst gaining unprecedented entry to helpful patient information. 

It makes sense for researchers to work with Google, which is the most commonly used search engine in the U.S and the U.K. It is hoped that in time this data will be used to track and monitor the spread of all illnesses.



SMF rookie, fresh out of academia, looking forward to more creative ventures. With a love of current affairs, green tea and an ever insatiable wanderlust, Katie is ready to have her voice heard. Follow her @KatieAtSMF


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STI Spread Predicted by Google Search Reviewed by Katie Gascoyne on Tuesday, December 15, 2015 Rating: 5

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