Major events obviously have a big impact across the web. Here you can see the 2004 Asian tsunami making its mark:

What about all the hype around SARS and avian flu?

The Wikipedia page for sleeping sickness mentions a decline in incidence, and Compare Stuff shows that too:

Malaria seems to be very slightly on the decline, but remember this is a decline in the amount of coverage on the web, not the number of people being infected!

That’s why it’s a good idea to use Compare Stuff to look at the trends of words and phrases that are not likely to follow fashions and whims. Here are the first two phrases that came to mind, and they make a really pretty plot:

I really wouldn’t expect to see a global increase in bad coughs over the period of a few years (around 2005) but maybe this is related to something? Any suggestions? Go on, it would make my day to get a comment!

And finally, this brings us to a brand new x-axis selection – South Asian countries – which should work well because English is widely spoken in those parts:

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