Objectives: To assess the association of public interest in coronavirus infections with the actual number of infected cases for selected countries across the globe. Methods: We performed a Google TrendsTM search for “Coronavirus” and compared Relative Search Volumes (RSV) indices to the number of reported COVID-19 cases by the European Center for Disease Control (ECDC) using time-lag correlation analysis. Results: Worldwide public interest in Coronavirus reached its first peak end of January when numbers of newly infected patients started to increase exponentially in China. The worldwide Google TrendsTM index reached its peak on the 12th of March 2020 at a time when numbers of infected patients started to increase in Europe and COVID-19 was declared a pandemic. At this time the general interest in China but also the Republic of Korea has already been significantly decreased as compared to end of January. Correlations between RSV indices and number of new COVID-19 cases were observed across all investigated countries with highest correlations observed with a time lag of −11.5 days, i.e. highest interest in coronavirus observed 11.5 days before the peak of newly infected cases. This pattern was very consistent across European countries but also holds true for the US. In Brazil and Australia, highest correlations were observed with a time lag of −7 days. In Egypt the highest correlation is given with a time lag of 0, potentially indicating that in this country, numbers of newly infected patients will increase exponentially within the course of April. Conclusions: Public interest indicated by RSV indices can help to monitor the progression of an outbreak such as the current COVID-19 pandemic. Public interest is on average highest 11.5 days before the peak of newly infected cases.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Microbiology (medical)
- Infectious Diseases