Smart technology and tracking tools make delivering flu resources and information a more current endeavor for public health officials. No one needs a reminder that this flu season was one of the worst in recent years. Preliminary data from the Centers for Disease Control suggests it may have been worse than the 2009 season, when the swine flu pandemic strain swept the country.The good news, however, is that digital data is helping researchers and public health organizations provide more timely predictions about the spread of the flu and assessments of seasons in progress. The advantage is that public health officials no longer have to wait for a Monday-morning quarterback approach to flu season, but can stay on top of its spread as it happens.Traditional data put out by the CDC and others often has a delay of a week or two, says Spencer Fox, who is pursuing a doctorate at the University of Texas in Austin and published research last fall on a computational model that explains why pandemics come at the end of flu season. With digital data, you can get a sense of whats going on with seasonal flu in real time, so youre predicting one or two weeks ahead of traditional data sources.

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