Tracking COVID-19 in Europe: Infodemiology Approach.JMIR Public Health Surveill. 2020 04 20; 6(2):e18941.JP
Infodemiology (ie, information epidemiology) uses web-based data to inform public health and policy. Infodemiology metrics have been widely and successfully used to assess and forecast epidemics and outbreaks.
In light of the recent coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic that started in Wuhan, China in 2019, online search traffic data from Google are used to track the spread of the new coronavirus disease in Europe.
Time series from Google Trends from January to March 2020 on the Topic (Virus) of "Coronavirus" were retrieved and correlated with official data on COVID-19 cases and deaths worldwide and in the European countries that have been affected the most: Italy (at national and regional level), Spain, France, Germany, and the United Kingdom.
Statistically significant correlations are observed between online interest and COVID-19 cases and deaths. Furthermore, a critical point, after which the Pearson correlation coefficient starts declining (even if it is still statistically significant) was identified, indicating that this method is most efficient in regions or countries that have not yet peaked in COVID-19 cases.
In the past, infodemiology metrics in general and data from Google Trends in particular have been shown to be useful in tracking and forecasting outbreaks, epidemics, and pandemics as, for example, in the cases of the Middle East respiratory syndrome, Ebola, measles, and Zika. With the COVID-19 pandemic still in the beginning stages, it is essential to explore and combine new methods of disease surveillance to assist with the preparedness of health care systems at the regional level.