Google Search Trends Reveal Chickenpox Is Seasonal

First Posted: Jun 01, 2016 06:44 AM EDT

A new study revealed that chickenpox virus is a seasonal disease, because the number of people with this virus is the highest in the Spring. While the findings are hardly that phenomenal because published clinical cases already revealed this, the methods used to gain these findings is noteworthy. 

The researchers of the new University of Michigan-led study, instead of asking healthcare professionals when people consult them the most for chickenpox virus or doing a systematic literature review, used Google Trends to determine this finding, as reported by ABC News.

The researchers used the search engine to estimate and examine chickenpox rates and they were successful.

Google search data from 36 countries in a span of 11 years showed what published studies already said - chickenpox virus is more common in spring.  In particular, the search trends indicated that countries with government-mandated vaccinations for chickenpox experienced a significant drop in the number of Google searches for the particular disease.

The findings also revealed that immunization is effective for reducing seasonal outbreaks, as reported by Influenza Control Today

This is not the first time that this unconventional method has been used for healthcare research. Google trends has also been used to examine influenza rates. However, what is unique with the chickenpox study is that it did not onlylook at trends, it also showed the effectiveness of a vaccine.

Kevin Bakker, a doctoral student in the U-M Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology said this is remarkable. "It is really exciting to see human information-seeking behavior -- Google searches -- being reduced by vaccination implementation," Bakker said. "It's a very clear signal, and it shows that the vaccine is having a strong effect."

WGNTV reported that even though the findings are remarkable, doctors say more research is needed. Google data can only aid how to best allocate resources to countries.

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