A smart way to catch the next flu wave

Singh said the smart thermometer reading is especially useful for people who have only mild symptoms and may not need a doctor, as well as those who cannot access or cannot afford medical care. That means thermometers can detect people that health departments miss and provide a more accurate picture of how a flu wave is forming.

University researchers collaborating with Kinsa employees compared the company’s data with data from health departments to see how they matched and to determine temperature readings and reports. User symptoms can help model and predict outbreaks. above Nation and at the state level, the researchers found that the Kinsa data were strongly correlated with official surveillance measures but detected flu-like cases up to three weeks before they were reported by officials. reported by health authorities—may be due to the lag between when someone’s fever starts and their illness is officially reported.

Of course, smart thermometers aren’t the only form of digital monitoring. analysis Google search data can also provide a good start in predicting a flare — people often look up their symptoms before going to the doctor. But their searches are often based solely on perceived symptoms, which can be subjective. “The advantage of Kinsa is that it is based on objective temperature readings, as opposed to other measures of temperature,” said Sarah Ackley, a postdoctoral fellow in epidemiology and biostatistics at the University of California, San Francisco. self-reported symptoms. Kinsa area prediction.

Kinsa thermometers are sold at major drugstores, and the company also distributes them free of charge to registered families and employees in public schools in the United States. To date, the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene is the only government agency to partner with the company across the city, distributing more than 100,000 thermometers to 500 public schools for free since September. year 2021.

New York City is currently reporting very high levels of flu-like illnesses. For the week ending December 3, 13% of patients come to the clinic medical care is due to respiratory illness including fever associated with cough or sore throat. This is above the national baseline of 2.5 percent for this winter. According to Kinsa’s forecast, the current wave of cases in New York City will peak slightly later than nationally—meaning the risk of infection is projected to remain high in the new year. “We believe this is going to be the most extreme season and we have been anticipating that for a while,” Singh said.

However, the extent to which New York City’s health department is using Kinsa’s real-time data this flu season is unclear: “The work with Kinsa is experimental, and we’re still exploring how to use it. best use of data,” a department spokesperson wrote to WIRED by email.

Jay Varma, a professor of population health sciences at Cornell University who was involved in the pilot project in New York, said health authorities tend to be relatively cautious when it comes to data systems. new material. “As new systems arise, it can take time to understand how to best use them for decision making,” he said. Furthermore, new systems require additional staff and resources, he said, and there is always the question of how to maintain those resources in the future.


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