Predicting Flu Outbreaks with Weather Data

Weather data is one of many important factors necessary to anticipate and mitigate deadly influenza outbreaks. Though it’s possible to contract the flu year-round, it’s widely known that people are more susceptible during the fall and winter months. Colder temperatures don’t directly cause the flu, but the virus does survive better in colder, drier climates, which provide optimal conditions for it to spread.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is warning the 2019-2020 flu season could be early and severe, urging the American public to get flu shots as soon as possible. Australia just experienced a flu season that began two months earlier than usual and came close to rivaling the 2017 outbreak, leading some experts to signal that the U.S. could expect similar trends this season.

The 2018 flu season proved especially troubling for Mexico, straining the nation’s economy and causing more than 500 deaths. But outcomes could have been even worse were it not for a tool developed by worldwide digital marketing agency Wunderman Thompson, a Weather Source customer. Wunderman was hired by pharmaceutical company GSK to create the Theraflu Tracker, “the most accurate predictive model to calculate the risk of flu in real time anywhere in Mexico.”

Wunderman began by analyzing the past eight years of flu data from Mexico’s National Institute of Epidemiology layered with more than 50 weather variables provided by Weather Source. The firm also incorporated analysis of relevant Google keyword trends and geo-located social media activity. Its algorithms predicted when and where the flu would strike with up to 97% accuracy. Using this information, the team customized Theraflu communications in real-time to warn potential flu sufferers and would-be customers. As a result, GSK saw a 200% increase in e-commerce sales, and Wunderman provided significant value for both its client and the general public.

The campaign earned Wunderman a Bronze Lion award in the healthcare category at the 2019 Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity in France, where the world’s leading agencies, media companies, and consultancies gathered to discover and discuss the latest trends in creative marketing.

The Theraflu tracker campaign is an excellent example of how our weather and climate data can be a powerful component for a wide variety of use cases in the public health, private healthcare, pharmaceutical, and marketing industries. Contact us today to learn more. And congratulations to our friends at Wunderman Thompson on a job well done!

Taylor Stamulis

Taylor is a Senior Sales Representative at Weather Source, where she provides exceptional customer service to all clients and partners. Taylor holds a bachelor’s degree from Plymouth State University in New Hampshire.

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