Published: Fri, January 17, 2020
Health Care | By Cedric Leonard

County flu activity levels 'sporadic'

County flu activity levels 'sporadic'

Flu is wide spread across the USA, with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimating that there have been at least 9.7 million flu illnesses, 87,000 hospitalizations and 4,800 deaths from flu so far this season.

Influenza results in 650,000 deaths worldwide annually.

You can visit CDPH's Flu Clinic Finder at to find a flu shot location in your neighborhood and for updates on local flu activity.

Study author Dr Jennifer Radin, from the Scripps Research Translational Institute in California, said: 'Responding more quickly to influenza outbreaks can prevent further spread and infection, and we were curious to see if sensor data could improve real-time surveillance at the state level.

Knowing that when a person has the flu, their heart rate tends to rise and their sleep patterns change, the study authors calculated users' average resting heart rate and sleep duration, and then looked for any deviations to them to identify when any measurements fell outside of a user's normal range. "In the future, as these devices improve, and with access to 24/7 real-time data, it may be possible to identify rates of influenza on a daily instead of weekly basis".

More vulnerable people such as young children, the elderly, or those with asthma, cancer of HIV, may be at risk of more severe complications - people die because of flu every year. And while there are many reasons why someone's resting heart rate might be elevated aside from flu - lack of sleep, stress, weight gain - Radin found that, for a large population, the spikes in heart rate correlated with historical flu data.

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The average user was 43 years old and 60 per cent were female.

For this study, Radin's team de-identified data from 200,000 people whose Fitbits tracked activity, heart rate and sleep for at least 60 days during the March 2016 to March 2018 study period.

"This has the potential to improve the timeliness of the information we have, which will give public health responders more knowledge and ability to respond quicker", she says.

This recordsdata used to be when put next to the U.S. Facilities for Disease Administration's weekly estimates for flu-take care of illness. With greater volumes of data it may be possible to apply the method to more geographically refined areas, such as county or city-level.

This study was supported by the NIH National Center for Advancing Translational Health.

The authors identify several limitations in their study.

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