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Track the flu online

The warnings have already begun: The flu season is on the horizon. If you want to know how close that horizon is to your front lawn, WebMD has a map that will tell you. Its cold and flu map – available this year through WebMD’s mobile site – can tell you the prevalence of flu in your neighborhood. Using a combination of geolocation data and symptom information reported by WebMD users, the map pinpoints sickness hot spots, labelling them mild, moderate or severe, right down to the ZIP code.

This map is not the only program of this sort – the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers similar information on its flu tracker site, as does Google’s flu trends site.

But WebMD says its information, updated weekly, is more current than that used by the CDC, which “uses physicians’ reports after patients seek treatment.” (The WebMD map is based on patient reports, which are arguably less reliable than doctor diagnoses.)

– Nora Krug, Washington Post

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