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March 21, 2012 2:33 PM   Subscribe

Does an agency track colds and minor aliments like colds?

I know the CDC tracks influenza. Does anyone know if colds or other minor communicable aliments are tracked? If so, where is the data? I ask because every time a cold goes around I hear from people who live in other states that it just swept through their community. I am wondering if this is officially tracked.

I have found web boards where some parents talk about their kids recent illnesses. What I am looking for is something like the CDCʻs influenza tracking, but for the common cold.
posted by wandering_not_lost to Health & Fitness (6 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
No. Because there is no reliable reporting mechanism. People don't generally call their doctors about colds. And if they do, there are no samples taken, analyzed and sent up the line. And even if they did, there are just too many varieties of the common cold to keep track of, which is why it is called common. Even the doctors just say, yes, that sounds like the cold that's going around right now. Also, keep I mind colds don't kill very often, so any investment in tracking them more precisely is not as high priority.
posted by beagle at 4:05 PM on March 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

That said, I suspect if anyone has data that might be useful for this, it's cold medicine companies. Not that the data is publicly available, but I'm sure cold medicine companies (or maybe even national drug stores) know exactly how much medicine is being bought where, which probably has a reasonably good correlation with amount of illness in that location. I suspect that they could reconstruct something like this, if they wanted to. But yeah, again, you couldn't actually get your hands on any of this info.
posted by brainmouse at 4:52 PM on March 21, 2012

The pharma companies probably track their cold medicine sales for manufacturing/stockpiling purposes; that'd give a very general indication of what areas are experiencing higher levels of colds and when. I really doubt that anything will give you a more detailed breakdown, because there are actually thousands "common cold" viruses, plus I doubt if most people go to a doctor for something so minor --- and then there are a lot of us (me included!) who not only don't take a cold to a doctor, we don't even bother with over-the-counter cold medicines.
posted by easily confused at 5:21 PM on March 21, 2012

As everybody above says, it's near impossible to track something for which most people don't ever see a physician.

However I read an article (NYT?) a few years back about how Google offers a reasonable proxy mechanism for tracking these things as they can gauge by the number of searches for terms like 'cold symptoms' or 'cold vs flu' what's happening and where.
posted by lulu68 at 6:55 PM on March 21, 2012

I think you might be interested in Sickweather -"Just as Doppler radar scans the skies for indicators of bad weather, Sickweather scans social networks for indicators of illness, allowing you to check for the chance of sickness as easily as you can check for the chance of rain."
posted by unliteral at 8:06 PM on March 21, 2012

However I read an article (NYT?) a few years back about how Google offers a reasonable proxy mechanism for tracking these things

Yep, Google Flu Trends. It tracks searches for influenza, though, not the common cold.
posted by embrangled at 2:34 AM on March 22, 2012

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