Respiratory syncytial virus tracking using internet search engine data.

Oren, E., Frere, J., Yom-Tov, E., & Yom-Tov, E.

BMC public health, 18(1), 445. 29/12/2018

PMID: 29615018


Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) is the leading cause of hospitalization in children less than 1 year of age in the United States. Internet search engine queries may provide high resolution temporal and spatial data to estimate and predict disease activity. After filtering an initial list of 613 symptoms using high-resolution Bing search logs, we used Google Trends data between 2004 and 2016 for a smaller list of 50 terms to build predictive models of RSV incidence for five states where long-term surveillance data was available. We then used domain adaptation to model RSV incidence for the 45 remaining US states. Surveillance data sources (hospitalization and laboratory reports) were highly correlated, as were laboratory reports with search engine data. The four terms which were most often statistically significantly correlated as time series with the surveillance data in the five state models were RSV, flu, pneumonia, and bronchiolitis. Using our models, we tracked the spread of RSV by observing the time of peak use of the search term in different states. In general, the RSV peak moved from south-east (Florida) to the north-west US. Our study represents the first time that RSV has been tracked using Internet data results and highlights successful use of search filters and domain adaptation techniques, using data at multiple resolutions. Our approach may assist in identifying spread of both local and more widespread RSV transmission and may be applicable to other seasonal conditions where comprehensive epidemiological data is difficult to collect or obtain.