An app that could tell whether you’ll get the flu this year


A group of Triangle researchers are working on a flu-prediction app that could provide a personalized daily forecast for each patient.

Developed by statistician Katherine Heller of Duke University and UNC-Chapel Hill epidemiologist Allison Aiello, the model would allow health care providers to predict the spread of influenza from one person to the next over time. This information could then be turned into action to alert at-risk patients before they get sick, and encourage them to stay at home if needed.

“It’s really important in the field of medicine in general to capture information on a shorter time scale than information that has been captured in the past,” Heller says. “Your mobile phone, that’s a mechanism for you to enter information about your health on a second by second basis.”

In the project, supported by the U.S. National Science Foundation and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the researchers are working with students in college dorms who voluntarily signed up for the platform. About 100 students at the University of Michigan carried Android smartphones with pre-installed app, dubbed iEpi, to monitor where they went and who they came in contact with. The undergrads also recorded their symptoms every week online, with those reporting flu symptoms providing throat swabs to determine whether they had a cold or the flu. The app could then made predictions on the flu’s spread.

If everything goes as planned and this technology ends up in a real-world product/app, the team would have to figure out how to get people to contribute their health information to get even better predictions.

In the meantime, now that Google Flu Trends has been discontinued, we’ll continue to rely on Sickweather to get the same/similar information.

[Via: upstart]