With the world in the grip of the coronavirus pandemic, it is not surprising Doctor Google is working overtime as people search for an explanation when they feel unwell.
They found a spike in searches for gastrointestinal symptoms preceded the rise in COVID-19 cases in that state in the following weeks.
This was the case in New York, New Jersey, California, Massachusetts and Illinois. All the states presented high case numbers three to four weeks after the spike in searches.
“Thus, searches for GI symptoms preceded the rise in reported COVID-19 in a predictable fashion.
“Our data underscores the importance of GI symptoms as a potential harbinger of COVID-19 infection and suggests that Google Trends may be a valuable tool for prediction of pandemics.”
The method of using Google search trends to predict disease outbreaks has been used before to track outbreaks of influenza.
In that case the lag time between a spike in symptom searches and an outbreak was shorter, at one to two weeks.