Monitoring Temporal Trends in Internet Searches for “Ticks” across Europe by Google Trends: Tick–Human Interaction or General Interest?

TitleMonitoring Temporal Trends in Internet Searches for “Ticks” across Europe by Google Trends: Tick–Human Interaction or General Interest?
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2022
AuthorsJensen PM, Danielsen F, Skarphedinsson S
Date Published2022-02-08
PublisherMDPI AG
Place PublishedBasel

Monitoring vector–human interaction is pivotal for assessing potential transmission rates of vector borne diseases and their associated public health impact. People often seek information following an insect bite in order to identify hematophagous arthropods, which in recent years often is done using Internet resources. Through this activity, a record of net searches is generated, which include information that reflect local human–arthropod interaction, e.g., for the common tick (Ixodes ricinus) in European countries. Such records could in principle provide low cost real-time monitoring data, if indeed Internet search activities adequately reflect tick–human interaction. We here explore Google Trends records for within-year and between-year trends, for four different Danish search terms for “tick(s)”. We further assess the relationship between monthly search-frequencies and local weather conditions (temperatures and precipitation from 2007 to 2016) in nine European countries. Our findings point to significant limitations in the records due to changes in search-term preferences over the given years. However, the seasonal dynamics are comparable among search-terms. Moreover, the seasonal pattern in search terms vary across Europe in tune with changes in temperature and precipitation. We conclude that, the within-year variation for given search-terms provide credible information, which systematically vary with local weather patterns. We are not convinced that these records merely reflect general interest. It will, however, require a more in-depth analysis by researchers that have specific insight into local language practices to fully assess the strength and weaknesses of this approach

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