Baby, it’s cold inside

I have been away from News Cut for the last five days and the way this “cold” has treated me so far, it may be a few days yet before I return. From what I understand, everyone in Minnesota is suffering from the same seasonal disorder, though the strongest in the majority are going to work, leaving the weakest in the herd behind to stretch out on the sofa, watching the stock market ticker on a minute-by-minute basis (we’re too weak to turn the channel) and wondering which will kill us first: the economy or this misnamed affliction.

A “cold” sounds so puny, and it usually is until you hit your 50s and then you find it takes longer to recover from such things. We don’t expect others to understand, and so we embellish our woes a bit. “I have the flu,” one might say, and that worked great until Google ruined things by developing an application a few months ago that tracks the flu.

Google has determined that keywords that people enter in its search engine are indicative of a flu outbreak. For peace of mind alone, I’ve been entering “I have the freakin’ flu” in the search box for the last two hours, but Google has determined that I don’t.


By the way, if you actually type in “I have the freakin’ flu” in Google, the number one item that is returned in the search is “get your freakin’ flu shot.”

  • Bonnie

    Get well soon. This is a personal question, but did you get a shot? I did, wonder if it matters. Thanks for the info, upcoming pattern suggests we are in for it.

  • Take care of yourself, we all miss you!

  • Anna

    Well that explains why you’ve not been posting much at all in the last few days…hope you’re on the mend (your co-horts there do a good job, but it’s just not the same without you…). And, y’know, I think you’re right that colds just hit harder when you’re not 20 anymore.

  • Paul

    I know Google got a lot of free advertising out that “flu” tracking gimmick, but I haven’t seen any reporters give it any critical examination. As the husband of an epidemiologist, this is what I over hear:

    1. Google will get a ton of false positives because there are a whole bunch of reason people may do a search for “flu” in any given location. For instance, every time a local news outlet does a story about the flu shot, healthy people seek information.

    2. The google gimmick assumes that people are accurately self diagnosing. In fact there is widespread confusion about what the flu really is. Many people with ordinary colds or food poisoning will google “flu”.

    3. Locating and identifying flu outbreaks is not a problem to begin with. State and Federal governments already conduct routine surveillance that is far more accurate and reliable. Google is a solution in search of a problem.

    4. No systematic study of this Google system has been conducted, published, or even attempted. this is pure hype at this point.