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'Smart thermometer' could predict flu spread

Press Trust of India  |  Washington 

A "smart thermometer" connected to a mobile phone app can track activity in real time and help predict how the will spread, scientists say.

"We found the smart data are highly correlated with information obtained from traditional public health and can be used to improve forecasting of activity, possibly giving warnings of changes in activity weeks in advance," said Aaron Miller, a postdoctoral scholar at (UI) in the US.

"Using simple forecasting models, we showed that data could be effectively used to predict levels up to two to three weeks into the future," said Miller.

"Given that traditional provide data with a lag time of one to two weeks, this means that estimates of activity may actually be improved up to four or five weeks earlier," he said.

Scientists analysed de-identified data from a commercially available and accompanying app, which recorded users' temperature measurement over a study period from 2015 to 2017.

There were over 8 million temperature readings generated by almost 450,000 unique devices.

The smart thermometers encrypt device identities to protect user privacy and also give users the option of providing anonymised information on age or sex.

The team compared the data from the smart thermometers to (ILI) activity data gathered by the US Centers for Control and Prevention (CDC) from health care providers across the country.

The study, published in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases, found that the de-identified smart thermometer data was highly correlated with ILI activity at national and regional levels and for different age groups.

Current forecasts rely on this CDC data, but even at its fastest, the information is almost two weeks behind real-time activity.

The study showed that adding thermometer data, which captures clinically relevant symptoms (temperature) likely even before a person goes to the doctor, to simple forecasting models, improved predictions of flu activity.

This approach accurately predicted activity at least three weeks in advance.

"Our findings suggest that data from smart thermometers are a new source of information for accurately tracking in advance of standard approaches," said Philip Polgreen, at UI.

"activity can help alert health care professionals that influenza is circulating, help coordinate response efforts, and help anticipate clinic and hospital staffing needs and increases in visits associated with high levels of influenza activity," he said.

Knowing that flu activity is about to increase in a community may also prompt individuals to get a flu shot, stay home from work when they get sick, and seek medical help if their worsens.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Sun, February 11 2018. 12:45 IST