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For the period of the spread of pandemic H1N1 influenza in New Zealand during 2009, we compared results from Google Flu Trends with data from existing surveillance systems. The patterns from Google Flu Trends were closely aligned with (peaking a week before and a week after) two independent national surveillance systems for influenza-like illness (ILI) cases. It was much less congruent with (delayed by three weeks) data from ILI-related calls to a national free-phone Healthline and with media coverage of pandemic influenza. Some patterns were unique to Google Flu Trends and may not have reflected the actual ILI burden in the community. Overall, Google Flu Trends appears to provide a useful free surveillance system but it should probably be seen as supplementary rather than as an alternative.


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