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Flu 2.0: Social media warned us, but I didn’t listen

Google Flu Trends

I should have known it wasn’t the chicken. I was one of the early cheerleaders for sites like Sickweather, which tries to parse health trends from social status updates. Since then, the concept has gone more mainstream, particularly with Google Flu Trends, a health-centric take on its also-useful Search Trends.

But instead I blamed what I had on some suspect chicken, and now I sit here, downing lemonade while kicking myself. At least I’m not alone: There are 700 confirmed cases of the flu so far in Boston, up from 70 last year, and 18 flu-related deaths around the state.

Of course, the real problem started weeks ago, when I decided not to (or more accurately, didn’t decide to, because I didn’t even think of it) get a flu shot. This is the first time I haven’t dutifully gone to the clinic in at least five years.

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As AllThingsD’s Liz Gannes helpfully points out, if only I’d been following my own advice, I would have seen Sickweather’s early warning on Oct. 18, giving me plenty of time to get my shot.

Letting me slightly off the hook, as Gannes also notes, is the fact that this tweet was buried “among a normal stream of banter and self-promotion.”

But if I had heeded its warning, and the dire red “Intense” Google Flu Trends warning that now blankets America, there’s a good chance I would have been safe: The Daily Dose reports that this year’s vaccine have covered about 91 percent of flu viruses, which sounds like good odds to me.

So as much as I’d like to blame my illness on bad social media outreach, the dangers of poor signal-to-noise, or some other modern information-overload ailment, I think the simplest answer is to go with a decidedly less social solution: I just added “Get Flu Shot” as an annually recurring event starting Oct. 1, 2013.

Until then, feel free to shoot me your story ideas, anecdotes, and innovation-related news to Hive@Boston.com, but understand I might be even slower to respond than usual — unless you’ve got a good angle on how to beat back the flu.

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