Flu numbers triple in comparison to last season

Henrietta Strickland
January 17, 2020

Crystal Miller, public health director for WEDCO.

"If you've been sick with the flu, it's still okay to get the flu vaccine as well". The authors noted that to measure population-level changes, they included data from the five states with the most Fitbit use: California, Texas, New York, Illinois, and Pennsylvania.

People were flagged up as a flu risk if their weekly average heart rate rose above their normal level, or if they were sleeping more than they usually did.

According to the latest number of disease control and prevention centers, an estimated 9.7 million people have flu this season alone, 87,000 have been hospitalized, and almost 5,000 have died of flu.

The findings of the latest study were reported in the medical journal Lancet Digital Health.

"The vaccine that we give in Alberta protects against four of the strains, so two of the As and two of the Bs, and every year there's different amounts of people that get different types of infections, and this year we're seeing a lot of that B strain infection in the population here".

Previous studies using crowd-sourced data - such as Google Flu Trends and Twitter - have experienced variable success, partly, experts say, because it is impossible to separate out behavior of people with flu from people who search online about it due to more media and public attention during outbreaks.

As traditional surveillance reporting can take anywhere from one to three weeks to report, it limits the ability to quickly enact response measures.

Dr Radin and her colleagues found that by incorporating the data from Fitbits, they were able to predict outbreaks sooner.

"When someone gets an infection, typically associated with a fever, their resting heart rate rises; that's their physiological response", says study author and epidemiologist Jennifer Radin. This is captured by wearable devices such as smartwatches and fitness trackers which track heart rate.

"Sporadic" flu activity level is defined as small numbers of laboratory-confirmed influenza cases or a single laboratory-confirmed influenza outbreak has been reported, but there is no increase in cases of influenza-like illness, according to Kentucky Health News. This is the first time heart rate trackers and sleep data have been used to predict flu, or any infectious disease, in real time.

Radin and colleagues obtained deidentified Fitbit data from a convenience sample of users from March 2016 to March 2018. The typical age used to be 43 and 60% had been feminine.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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