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New study shows online searches can help health officials track diseases

A team of Harvard researchers this week successfully tracked dengue fever in Mexico, Brazil, Thailand, Singapore and Taiwan.

A screengrab of the homepage of google.co.za search engine.

CAPE TOWN - New research indicates online searches can help health officials track diseases. A team of Harvard researchers this week successfully tracked dengue fever in Mexico, Brazil, Thailand, Singapore and Taiwan using a mathematical model that combines Google searches and clinical government data.

An estimated 390 million are infected with the mosquito-borne disease annually.

The research builds on the team's previous project to monitor the flu in the United States in 2015.

According to the researchers, that study restored hope that online searches could help track diseases after earlier efforts like Google Flu Trends and Google Dengue Trends returned mixed results and were discontinued.

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