Suzanne Tracy at Scientific Computing Source: “Last month, the Flu Near You crowdsourcing tool expanded its data collection to include Zika, chikungunya and dengue symptoms, such as eye pain, yellow skin/eyes and joint/bone pain. Flu Near You is a free and anonymous Web site and mobile application that allows the public to report their health information by completing brief weekly surveys.
Created by epidemiologists at Harvard, Boston Children’s Hospital and The Skoll Global Threats Fund, the novel participatory disease surveillance tool is intended to complement existing surveillance systems by directly engaging the public in public health reporting. As such, it relies on voluntary participation from the general public, asking participants to take a few seconds each week to report whether they or their family members have been healthy or sick.
Using participant-reported symptoms, the site graphs and maps this information to provide local and national views of illness. Thousands of reports are analyzed and mapped to provide public health officials and researchers with real-time, anonymous information that could help prevent the next pandemic.
The survey, which launched in 2011, is conducted year-round for several reasons.
- First, it is possible for an influenza outbreak to occur outside of the traditional flu season. For instance, the first wave of pandemic H1N1 hit in the spring of 2009. The project wants to capture any emerging outbreak, should something similar occur again.
- Second, the project’s symptoms-based health forms allow it to monitor other diseases, such as the recently-added Zika, chikungunya and dengue, which may have different seasons than influenza….(More)