I was recently surprised by a map on the news showing the spread of flu. All that coughing is more widespread than I imagined, and perhaps like me you are one of those people chatting it up on social media. Well, if you are interested in doing more than just talking, there’s a project just waiting for your input, according to Discover. Flu Near You gives participants a chance to check in about how they are feeling in order to track the virus. It’s not important to know whether or not the flu is a confirmed case since the project is looking at symptoms. Here’s detail from the site’s Q & A.
First, the flu can only be confirmed with a laboratory test from your doctor. This is why we are looking for symptoms of influenza-like illness, rather than a definitive flu diagnosis. Second, even though the focus of Flu Near You is the flu, it is important to know when people are getting sick with other illnesses, too. We do not limit reporting only to people whose symptoms are related to flu.
The project was created by epidemiologists from Harvard and Boston Children’s Hospital. Crowd sourced data is collected each week by email or through mobile app and a map is created from the reports. On the site’s news, I found an interesting graph comparing CDC (Center for Disease Control) data with that from FNY (Flu Near You). You can see the sharper decrease of Influenza-Like Illness from registered FNY users. It makes me wonder whether this project can reduce the illness simply through awareness. I know I’ve certainly been washing my hands more frequently. Flu Near You is a great example of how to take something commonplace and turn it into citizen science. Help spread the word about this project and let’s see what we can learn about the flu.