Google's Data Shows That This Year's Flu Season Is the Worst In a Long Time

By Alexis C. Madrigal

Stock up on the Pedialyte and Kleenex, while you still can.

reallygoodflu.gif

Data by Google, GIFing by Alexis Madrigal.

Look out world, this year's flu season is nasty. 

For the past six flu seasons, Google has predicted the severity of the annual plague based on the increase in flu-related search terms. The company's data matches up really well with the official Centers for Disease Control Statistics. So well that Google is now an official CDC partner; Google's a close-to-real-time warning signal, basically. 

And this year, that's bad news. Because if you look at that dark blue line above, you can see that 2012-2013 eclipses any of the previous six seasons, and it's still very early. Of course, it could be a year the viral hit peaks high but early, a la 2009-2010, or it could have a more traditional curve like 2007-2008. If it's the latter, a lot of people are going to get sick. 

Either way, though, this year is bad. Get your flu shot. Maybe it will help.

Update: why are things so bad this season? Well, we've got three different infections that cause flu-like symptoms right now, the New York Times reports. There are 1) the year's "standard" flu, H3N2, 2) a tough newish stomach bug, and 3) the worst outbreak of pertussis, "whooping cough," in 60 years. 

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2013/01/googles-data-shows-that-this-years-flu-season-is-the-worst-in-a-long-time/267009/