Real time tracking of local flu activity can be a challenge as the infection easily spreads as people move about and travel.

Scientists have used artificial intelligence to create a tool that can track the spread of influenza and predict where the highly contagious infection may travel.

Real time tracking of local flu activity can be a challenge as the infection easily spreads as people move about and travel.

A study published in the journal Nature Communications, shows that the approach, called ARGONet, makes more accurate predictions than the earlier high-performing forecasting approach, ARGO.

“Timely and reliable methodologies for tracking influenza activity across locations can help public health officials mitigate epidemic outbreaks and may improve communication with the public to raise awareness of potential risks,” said Mauricio Santillana, from Computational Health Informatics Program (CHIP) at Boston Children’s Hospital in the US.

The ARGONet approach uses machine learning and two robust flu detection models.

The first model, ARGO (AutoRegression with General Online information), leverages information from electronic health records, flu-related Google searches and historical flu activity in a given location.

In the study, ARGO alone outperformed Google Flu Trends, the previous forecasting system that operated from 2008 to 2015.

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