Researchers present findings on role of google search early in COVID-19 pandemic

October 26, 2020

WASHINGTON (Oct. 26, 2020) - Non-generic queries in the online tool Google Trends may yield better insight into health information-seeking behavior, according to a new study by researchers from the George Washington University (GW).

Google Trends analyzes the popularity of top Google queries geographically and longitudinally. More recently it has been used as a surveillance and retrospective epidemiological tool to study the impact of COVID-19 around the world. However, studies focusing on the pandemic's impact in the United States have been lacking, according to the researchers.

"What's interesting about Google Trends is that it is a free platform that allows researchers like me to assess information-seeking behavior from a big data perspective," said King John Pascual, a third-year MD student at the GW School of Medicine and Health Sciences (SMHS) and first author on the study. "Just like with any big-data platform, if you have the right research questions, it can be a powerful epidemiological tool."

The study, conducted by Pascual and his mentor Ali Pourmand, MD, MPH, professor of emergency medicine at SMHS, utilized Google Trends to assess the extent of the public's perceived exposure to COVID-19 as it relates to disease prevalence during the early phase of the pandemic in the U.S. The team collected four weeks of search volume index (SVI) data from March 2020.

Out of the five queries analyzed, two that signal perceived exposure to the virus, "How do I get tested for coronavirus?" or "Do I have coronavirus?" had statistically significant differences in mean SVI between states with the highest and lowest numbers of COVID-19 cases. Generic queries such as "What is coronavirus?" or "How is coronavirus spread?" that do not necessarily reflected perceived exposure to the virus were not associated with the number of COVID-19 cases. The study findings imply how analyzing specific phrases, in lieu of those borne out by general interest, may yield more meaningful data about perceived exposure to a communicable disease on a population level.

"Early access to population health data is crucial and potentially lifesaving," said Pascual. "Digital tools such as Google Trends may help bridge the gap in knowledge and transparency."
-end-
The findings will be available 24/7 on demand during the Research Forum at the American College of Emergency Physicians annual conference, the world's largest emergency medicine conference, Oct. 26-29. The abstract is also published in the supplement to the November 2020 issue of the Annals of Emergency Medicine:
George Washington University

Related Pandemic Articles from Brightsurf:

Areas where the next pandemic could emerge are revealed
An international team of human- and animal health experts has incorporated environmental, social and economic considerations -- including air transit centrality - to identify key areas at risk of leading to the next pandemic.

Narcissists love being pandemic 'essential workers'
There's one group of essential workers who especially enjoy being called a ''hero'' during the COVID-19 pandemic: narcissists.

COVID-19: Air quality influences the pandemic
An interdisciplinary team from the University of Geneva and the ETH Z├╝rich spin-off Meteodat investigated possible interactions between acutely elevated levels of fine particulate matter and the virulence of the coronavirus disease.

People who purchased firearms during pandemic more likely to be suicidal
People who purchase a firearm during the pandemic are more likely to be suicidal than other firearm owners, according to a Rutgers study.

Measles outbreaks likely in wake of COVID-19 pandemic
Major measles outbreaks will likely occur during 2021 as an unexpected consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a new academic article.

The COVID-19 pandemic: How US universities responded
A new George Mason University study found that the majority of university announcements occurred on the same day as the World Health Organization's pandemic declaration.

Researchers find evidence of pandemic fatigue
A new study from the USC Leonard Davis School of Gerontology shows that the behavioral responses to COVID-19 differed by age.

Excessive alcohol consumption during the COVID-19 pandemic
The full impact of COVID-19 on alcohol use is not yet known, but rates have been rising during the first few months of the pandemic.

How fear encourages physical distancing during pandemic
Despite guidelines plastered on the walls and floors of grocery and retail stores encouraging customers to maintain six-feet of physical distance during the pandemic, many do not.

COVID-19 pandemic and $16 trillion virus
This Viewpoint aggregates mortality, morbidity, mental health conditions, and direct economic losses to estimate the total cost of the pandemic in the US on the optimistic assumption that it will be substantially contained by the fall of 2021.

Read More: Pandemic News and Pandemic Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.