A newly created mobile app allows students to monitor the spread of the flu around campus, says researchers at Duke University and the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. This app provides students with a personalized, daily forecast for each patient.
Flu season starts to ramp up as early as October, and college students are one of the most prone to the virus. If a surface is not regularly disinfected, bacteria can grow and multiply up to 31% every day. Therefore, college students are more likely to spread viruses due to factors such as close living quarters, low vaccination rates, and busy calendars.
To test their flu-tracking model, researchers got together a sample of about 100 students at the University of Michigan. During 10 weeks in the 2013 flu season, these students carried Android smartphones with built-in software known as iEpi. This software was created as a way for doctors to monitor the spread of the virus, as well as identify at-risk students before they get sick. The program uses Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and GPS technology to monitor where the student went, and those they came into contact with.
Students were also asked to record their symptoms every week online. Students who reported symptoms such as coughing, fever, chill, or aches were asked to provide throat swabs to determine if they had the flu, or a common cold.
”We didn’t have this kind of personalized health data until a few years ago,” says statistician Katherine Heller, one of the developers of the predication model. “But now, smartphones and wearable health and fitness devices allow us to collect information like a person’s heart rate, blood pressure, social interactions, and activity levels with much more regularity and more accurately than was possible before. You can keep a continuous logbook.”
Once researchers gathered and analyzed the data, the model provided students with their odds of spreading or contracting the flu on any given day. It also suggested personal health habits to help them prevent the spread of germs, such as hand washing or flu shots.
The researchers presented their findings on August 12, during the 21st International Conference on Knowledge Discovery and Data Mining in Sydney, Australia.