Marketing 3 min read

How Google Searches can Help Detect Emerging COVID-19 Cases

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According to a data scientist, Google searches can help health officials detect previously unknown cases of the coronavirus.

COVID-19 has infected over 1.4 million people across the world while killing more than 88,000.

At the moment, researchers have not been able to invent a cure or vaccine for the disease. So, health officials and governments have issued lockdowns and insisted that citizens practice social distancing.

While many patients reported several symptoms for the diseases, others have been asymptomatic. As a result, governments don’t have early insight into where the virus may hit to impose early quarantines.

However, a data scientist may have come up with a solution. According to Seth Stephens-Davidowitz, Google searches can help detect emerging coronavirus cases.

In an opinion piece in the New York Times, Stephens-Davidowitz wrote:

“Every day, millions of people around the world type their health symptoms into Google. We can use these searches to help detect unknown Covid-19 outbreaks, particularly in parts of the world with poor testing infrastructure.”

Here’s how it works.

Using Google Searches for Loss of Smell to Track Coronavirus

Studies suggest that loss of taste and smell are critical indicators of coronavirus infection. According to some estimates, 30-60 percent of people with the disease experience this symptom.

Meanwhile, Stephens-Davidowitz noted a link between searches related to loss of smell during this pandemic and state-level COVID-19 prevalence.

The data scientists pointed out that searches for “I can’t smell” were highest in New York, New Jersey, Louisiana, and Michigan. At the same time, these four states have the highest prevalence of COVID-19.

Also, searches for “no Puedo oler” (“I can’t smell”) are roughly ten times higher per Google search in Ecuador than they are in Spain, he said. However, Ecuador reports ten times fewer COVID-19 cases per capita than Spain does.

Stephens-Davidowitz believes he has discovered a fourth coronavirus symptom. He noted that eye pain is the fourth most popular search behind loss of smell, fever, and chills.

He wrote:

“I think search data offers suggestive evidence that eye pain can be a symptom of the disease. However, it might only affect a small fraction of Covid-19 patients.”

For example, New York now has roughly one-sixth as many searches related to eye pain as there are searches related to loss of smell.

In the end, Stephens-Davidowitz suggested that health professionals examine the possible relationship between COVID-19 and eye pain.

Read More: Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on the Travel Industry

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Sumbo Bello

Sumbo Bello is a creative writer who enjoys creating data-driven content for news sites. In his spare time, he plays basketball and listens to Coldplay.

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