RSV Awareness Online Tool

The aim of the RSV Awareness online tool is to track global public awareness of Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) by utilizing online search volumes. RSV poses a significant public health burden worldwide, and understanding awareness levels is vital for effective prevention and education. To achieve this, we will provide a continuous timeline of global RSV awareness, drawing from two online sources: Google Trends and Wikipedia Pageviews. This approach offers a valuable, multi-dimensional representation of public awareness, supporting ongoing monitoring and intervention efforts.

This tool is part of PROMISE, and has been supported by IMI/EU funding and the EFPIA contribution.

We are happy to announce the release of an interesting article, authored by the experts of the IHI – Innovative Health Initiatives hedding light on our online RSV awareness tool.

Why is it useful to track search volumes of RSV?

Knowing the search volume of RSV can be highly useful for several reasons:

1. Early detection: Monitoring search volume can help identify potential outbreaks or spikes in RSV cases. A significant increase in searches related to RSV symptoms or treatments can indicate a surge in cases, allowing public health officials to respond promptly and allocate appropriate resources.

2. Geographic tracking: Analyzing search volume geographically provides insights into the regions where RSV is most prevalent or where awareness levels are low. This information can guide targeted interventions, public health campaigns, and resource allocation to specific areas in need.

3. Evaluation of awareness campaigns: By tracking search volume before and after awareness campaigns, it becomes possible to assess their impact. Changes in search behavior, following educational initiatives can indicate increased awareness and the effectiveness of specific messaging strategies.

4. Understanding the societal impact: Tracking search volume is instrumental to understand the societal impact of RSV-related events (such as seasonality, outbreaks or organised events)  and publications (such as news articles and scientific publications).

In summary, tracking search volume of a disease like RSV provides valuable insights for early detection, geographic tracking, public education, campaign evaluation, understanding societal impact, and resource allocation. This information supports timely interventions, targeted awareness efforts, and better management of public health outcomes.

Wikipedia – Pageviews

Wikipedia Pageviews is another online datasource that gives a representation of public awareness of RSV. It can complement the time chart from Google Trends (see below) and the trends observed there.

In Figure 1, RSV received increased media attention in the spring and summer of 2021 due to a delayed RSV outbreak. This delay was most likely caused by COVID-19 restrictions, which were relaxed again at the beginning of 2021. Another large peak can be observed in the November and December 2022, preceding the RSV season.

Figure 1. The graph shows the absolute amount of times the “Respiratory Syncytial Virus” Wikipedia page is visited by web users worldwide over the last five years.

Google Trends – Time Chart

Google Trends is a validated tool for measuring public awareness of a certain topic. It measures relative search volume over time.

Figure 2. Relative search volume for “respiratory syncytial virus” is shown since 2021. Important note is that this is an umbrella term for RSV and automatically accounts for this search volume as well.

In Figure 2, relative search volume for “respiratory syncytial virus” is shown over the last two years. This accounts for RSV search as well, as it is categorised as the same umbrella term. Most importantly, this also includes the translation from all languages. Meaning, it is not restricted to the English term of RSV, rather it is translated from the original setting of the user’s original Google language, which allows for global data extraction.

The scale is from 0 to a 100 to represent the relative search interest for a specific term over time. A value of 100 indicates the peak popularity of the term within the chosen timeframe, while a value of 0 represents minimal interest.

A peak can be observed between 23-29 October in 2022 with a second peak at 13-19 November 2022. Other data points are compared to the highest data point, hence the term “relative”. If you want to look at other time frame variabilities, click here.

Google Trends – Geomap

Figure 3. Relative search volume data from Google Trends shown per country over the last five years.

Analyzing search volume geographically provides insights into the regions where RSV is most prevalent or where awareness levels are low.  This information can guide targeted interventions, public health campaigns, and resource allocation to specific areas in need. Google Trends enables search volume data to be shown per country, as seen in Figure 3. The geomap uses a color gradient to represent the relative search interest for RSV across different countries. Darker shades indicate regions with higher search interest, while lighter shades represent lower search interest.

It is important to understand this is once again relative. For example, the value of 100 for RSV in the United States indicates that it had the highest search interest within the last 5 years and location compared to other terms. A value of 65 in Poland suggests that RSV” had lower search interest there compared to the USA during the same period.

This map can give you an idea of the differences in public awareness of RSV between different countries.

Disclaimer of the RSV Awareness Tool

When interpreting Google Trends and WikiPages data, there are several important considerations to keep in mind:

Relative scale: Google Trends data provides relative search interest of RSV over time rather than absolute search volumes. It shows how search interest for RSV changes over time, but it does not provide precise search volume numbers. Therefore, it is crucial to understand that the data represents the relative popularity compared to its peak popularity within the specified time frame.

Correlation vs. causation: Google Trends and WikiPages data shows the search interest for RSV, which if increased,  does not necessarily imply an increase in actual disease incidence or public awareness. It is important to consider other factors, such as media coverage, awareness campaigns, or seasonal variations, that could influence search behavior.

Interpretation in conjunction with other data sources: To gain a more comprehensive understanding, it is beneficial to combine Google Trends and WikiPages data with other relevant data sources, such as official disease surveillance data, news reports, social media trends, or expert insights.

By keeping these considerations in mind, researchers and public health professionals can effectively interpret Google Trends data and gain valuable insights into public interest and awareness related to specific diseases like RSV.

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