A new University of Michigan-led study analyzed thousands of Google searches for “chickenpox” and found that countries that implemented mandatory chickenpox vaccines saw a dramatic drop in searches related to the childhood disease.
These findings, according to researchers, demonstrate the success of the vaccines laws.“It is really exciting to see human information-seeking behavior — Google searches — being reduced by vaccination implementation,” said Kevin Bakker, a doctoral student in the U-M Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. “It’s a very clear signal, and it shows that the vaccine is having a strong effect.”
According to Bakker, the study which was published Monday in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences offers a new way to track the global burden of childhood diseases and is one of the most comprehensive digital epidemiology efforts to date.
Using Google trends, researchers believe they can better create a forecasting model to predict the timing and magnitude of chickenpox outbreaks.
“These results suggest that information seeking can be used for rapid forecasting, when the reporting of clinical cases is unavailable or too slow,” the study says.
Mandatory vaccines are something the U.S. should be doing more of. In a country in which “chickenpox parties” exist in which parents expose their kids to the disease, believing that they can protect their children by giving them the disease. This, of course, ignores that those exposed to the virus in childhood have a high-risk factor in developing shingles in late adulthood.