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Cloudy with a chance of flu? Study offers influenza forecast

Published on Nov 28, 2012 8:41 AM

WASHINGTON (REUTERS) - New research suggests it may be possible to forecast flu outbreaks in much the same way meteorologists predict weather, a potential boon for public health officials and consumers, one of the study's authors said on Tuesday.

Using real-time US data gathered by Google Inc, along with a computer model showing how flu spreads, the researchers offered a system that could generate local forecasts of the severity and length of a particular flu outbreak.

This kind of forecasting could improve preparation and management of annual flu outbreaks in the United States, said Irene Eckstrand of the National Institutes of Health.

Influenza kills 250,000 to 500,000 people each year around the globe; the US annual flu death toll is 35,000.

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