App uses social media to track illnesses

App uses social media to track illnesses
Updated: Nov. 10, 2017 at 7:49 PM CST
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Source: sickweather
Source: sickweather

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - More than likely, a majority of people have apps on their phone for things like music, shopping, and checking the weather, but what about an app that tells you whether an illness like the flu, is lurking? A group of parents have developed an app for that. It's called Sickweather.

"As a parent, we wanted to know if something was going around, we searched local public health departments that lacked information," said Graham Dodge, founder and CEO of Sickweather App.

Dodge says after being sick with a newborn in the house, he wanted to know if there was something serious making the rounds. He logged on to Facebook and someone was posting about the same symptoms. Dodge says he immediately thought about what would happen if he paid close attention to people tweeting or posting on Facebook. "Things like, 'I have the flu,' or 'My doctor says I have bronchitis.'"

Dodge says social media provides a real time census of data, and through the app, they're able to validate a user's statement to help spread the word. "We're not collecting data on things like 'beaver fever' or 'dance fever' or things like that. We're only collecting verified reports of illness."

Developers then compare the social media illness trends to the most recent clinical records from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) using a patent-pending process. Dodge says the data holds up for two weeks, so whenever you step into a "sick zone," which could be the size of a neighborhood where others have recently reported being sick, you're alerted. Developers say they look at this as a prevention or pre-diagnosis app. "And in some cases where people have compromised immune systems, it really is helpful for avoidance and what they call 'social distancing,' so you're not going into an area where you might have a higher risk of getting something like influenza," Dodge explained.

Dr. Thomas Jeider, medical director of Express Care at Baton Rouge General says most recently, they've seen more patients with the common cold or upper respiratory illness. Dr. Jeider says apps like this are a resource tool and reminder to users to take preventative measures to avoid getting sick.

"Getting your flu shot, and coughing and covering your mouth, using your arm and your shirt. Preventative measures are the most important things and using that app is just an extra reminder to jog your memory to do those things," said Jeider.

Just in case you're wondering what's trending in Baton Rouge, Dodge says according to the data, they're seeing a spike in common cold activity, reports of fever, and reports of allergies, but also an increase in flu reports and strep throat.

A quick reminder from Dr. Jeider: just because the app doesn't have any reports of a particular illness, doesn't mean it's not lingering and users should still take the usual precautions.

Click here for more information on the Sickweather app.

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