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Smart Thermometer Improves Flu Forecasting

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When a flu season is more severe than expected—like this year’s—the surge of patients can overwhelm clinics, emergency rooms, and hospitals.

An accurate forecast of flu activity could provide advanced warning and help health care systems and public health departments be better prepared. 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 illness worsens.

A new approach tested by researchers at the University of Iowa shows that de-identified data from a “smart thermometer” connected to a mobile phone app can track flu activity in real time at both population and individual levels and the data can be used to significantly improve flu forecasting. The findings were published online Feb. 8 in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases.

“We found the smart thermometer data are highly correlated with information obtained from traditional public health surveillance systems and can be used to improve forecasting of influenza-like illness activity, possibly giving warnings of changes in disease activity weeks in advance,” says lead study author Aaron Miller, PhD, a UI postdoctoral scholar in computer science.

Read more at University of Iowa Health Care