As part of the series on analysing Indian online health searches, Kruxd examines Google search trends on health in Assam.
Data on Google search trends gives insight into what is attracting people’s attention and piqueing their curiosity at a time when the internet penetration rate in India has reached about 700 million active users. An analysis of Google Trends data for 2022 shows that people in Assam are concerned about newly found, rare, and seasonal diseases, with interest in them found to be widely dispersed and peaking at different times of the year.
As mass vaccinations, and COVID-19 wind down in the state, people are adapting to the post-pandemic lifestyle and challenges. Their COVID related searches reflect this.
Here are some major Google search trends from the state:
The most frequent searches were for cases and symptoms of monkeypox in India.
Searches for the disease saw the first spike in interest on Google Trends in May when it became a matter of concern globally. There was a spike again from July 24 to 30 because of the rising cases and the WHO declaring the disease a Public Health Emergency of International Concern.
The disease has been reported in 110 countries, many of which are witnessing an epidemic outbreak. India was the tenth country in Asia to report a monkeypox case and the first in South Asia. According to CDC monkeypox data, India has reported 17 cases and 1 death as of October 24, 2022.
Assam, on the other hand, has no record of Monkeypox outbreak. The State Government has taken all precautionary measures in advance following a directive from the Central Government. The government has formed a committee comprising experts from National Health Mission, Assam and medical colleges to tackle the disease as and when needed.
Ramsay Hunt Syndrome
Ramsay Hunt Syndrome is a neurological disease in which a virus, Varicella Zoster, causes inflammation of the nerves that help in facial movements. When the nerves get inflamed, facial muscles cannot receive necessary signals to function properly, leading to temporary facial paralysis. Ramsay Hunt syndrome occurs in people who’ve had chickenpox. The disease-causing virus stays inside the body even after the person recovers from chickenpox – sometimes reactivating in years later to cause Ramsay Hunt Syndrome.
During the period of June 5 to June 11, Ramsay Hunt Syndrome ranked as the top search topic in Assam as per Google Trends. During the same time, pop star Justin Bieber revealed he had been diagnosed with the disease. In a social media video, Bieber explained that his concerts had to be cancelled as the disease had paralysed the right side of his face.
Soon after the singer revealed his medical condition, people started searching about the news, the disease and its symptoms.
Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA)
Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) is the most common sleep-related breathing disorder. After a person with OSA falls asleep, their breathing repeatedly stops during the sleep, contributing to severe health consequences such as high blood pressure and heart failure, if untreated. Snoring, gasping or choking, sore throat, night sweats, and nagging headaches are some of the few symptoms of this disorder.
According to Google Trends data, Obstructive Sleep Apnea saw a spike in interest after legendary singer and music composer Bappi Lahiri passed away on February 15. He died at age 69 following complications from the disorder. The composer, known to popularise disco music in India, was suffering from OSA and chest infection from 2021. His death brought attention to this widely prevalent but under-diagnosed medical condition.
Japanese encephalitis is a major cause of high morbidity and mortality in Assam. Every year the state reports the outbreak of the mosquito-borne disease after the floods. According to the National Center for Vector Borne Diseases Control (NVBDCP), Assam recorded 450 cases of the disease which claimed 96 lives till November.
Following the spread of Japanese encephalitis disease, people in Assam were found searching for it, and its symptoms on Google during Mid-July when Japanese encephalitis was more prevalent in the state.