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Health warning: How Fitbits can help predict flu outbreaks

LONDON: The Fitbit in your wrist not solely counts your steps and minutes of sleep, it may well additionally assist inform in the event you’re coming down with the flu – and warn well being authorities to prepare to assist.

A examine in the USA has discovered that coronary heart charge and sleep knowledge from wearable health tracker watches can predict and alert public well being officers to real-time outbreaks of flu extra precisely than present surveillance strategies.

The examine used knowledge from greater than 47,000 Fitbit customers in 5 US states. The outcomes, printed in The Lancet Digital Well being journal, confirmed that by utilizing Fitbit knowledge, state-wide predictions of flu outbreaks have been improved and accelerated.

The World Well being Organisation estimates that as many as 650,000 folks worldwide die of respiratory ailments linked to seasonal flu every year.

Conventional surveillance reporting takes as much as three weeks, that means response measures – comparable to deploying vaccines or antivirals and advising sufferers to remain at dwelling – can usually lag.

“Responding extra shortly to influenza outbreaks can forestall additional unfold and an infection, and we have been curious to see if sensor knowledge may enhance real-time surveillance,” stated Jennifer Radin, who co-led that examine on the US Scripps Analysis Translational Institute.

Earlier research utilizing crowd-sourced knowledge – comparable to Google Flu Tendencies and Twitter – have skilled variable success, partly, consultants say, as a result of it’s unimaginable to separate out behaviour of individuals with flu from individuals who search on-line about it as a consequence of extra media and public consideration throughout outbreaks.

For this examine, Radin’s crew de-identified knowledge from 200,000 folks whose Fitbits tracked exercise, coronary heart charge and sleep for at the least 60 days through the March 2016 to March 2018 examine interval. From the 200,000, 47,248 customers from California, Texas, New York, Illinois and Pennsylvania wore a Fitbit persistently through the interval. The common age was 43 and 60% have been feminine.

Customers’ resting coronary heart charge and sleep period have been monitored and flagged as irregular if the common weekly coronary heart charge was considerably above their general common and their weekly common sleep was not under their general common.

This knowledge was in comparison with the US Facilities for Illness Management’s weekly estimates for flu-like sickness.

Rosalind Eggo, a public well being knowledgeable on the London Faculty of Hygiene & Tropical Medication, stated the examine suggests health trackers maintain some promise as a illness surveillance device.

However she stated extra work is required “to gauge how dependable these knowledge are over time, how particular these measurements are for flu, and the way consultant Fitbit customers are of the entire inhabitants”. – Reuters

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