Discrepancies between classic and digital epidemiology in searching for the mayaro virus: Preliminary qualitative and quantitative analysis of google trends

Mohammad Adawi, Nicola Luigi Bragazzi, Abdulla Watad, Kassem Sharif, Howard Amital, Naim Mahroum

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Background: Mayaro virus (MAYV), first discovered in Trinidad in 1954, is spread by the Haemagogus mosquito. Small outbreaks have been described in the past in the Amazon jungles of Brazil and other parts of South America. Recently, a case was reported in rural Haiti. Objective: Given the emerging importance of MAYV, we aimed to explore the feasibility of exploiting a Web-based tool for monitoring and tracking MAYV cases. Methods: Google Trends is an online tracking system. A Google-based approach is particularly useful to monitor especially infectious diseases epidemics. We searched Google Trends from its inception (from January 2004 through to May 2017) for MAYV-related Web searches worldwide. Results: We noted a burst in search volumes in the period from July 2016 (relative search volume [RSV]=13%) to December 2016 (RSV=18%), with a peak in September 2016 (RSV=100%). Before this burst, the average search activity related to MAYV was very low (median 1%). MAYV-related queries were concentrated in the Caribbean. Scientific interest from the research community and media coverage affected digital seeking behavior. Conclusions: MAYV has always circulated in South America. Its recent appearance in the Caribbean has been a source of concern, which resulted in a burst of Internet queries. While Google Trends cannot be used to perform real-time epidemiological surveillance of MAYV, it can be exploited to capture the public's reaction to outbreaks. Public health workers should be aware of this, in that information and communication technologies could be used to communicate with users, reassure them about their concerns, and to empower them in making decisions affecting their health.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere93
JournalJMIR Public Health and Surveillance
Volume3
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - 1 Oct 2017

Keywords

  • Arboviruses
  • Digital epidemiology
  • Digital health
  • Emerging viruses
  • Epidemiological monitoring
  • Epidemiology
  • Mayaro virus

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