Fitbit Could Help Fight the Flu

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LA JOLLA, CA -- Millions already wear a fitbit to stay healthy, but now the device could help you fight the flu.

A new study is working to see if fitbits are able to warn people before they get sick.

“With access to 24/7 real-time data from these devices, I can envision a time when it may be possible to identify illness rates on a daily basis rather than weekly, providing even more timely surveillance,” says Jennifer Radin, PhD, epidemiologist at Scripps Research Translational Institute and the first author of the study. “This sensor-based tracking technique could even hold value on a more global level, in situations where disease surveillance sites and laboratories are not always available.”

Researchers focused on five states with the highest fitbit users: California, Texas, New York, Illinois and Pennsylvania.They used math to detect the flu in real time based on changes in heart rate and sleep.

“When people get an infection, their resting heart rate tends to increase and their daily activities will change, as will sleep patterns,” Radin says, “By leveraging wearable technology that a large share of our population is already using, public health officials may be able to identify influenza-like illness rates faster and more precisely than what is currently possible.”

The hope is to predict flu outbreaks daily instead of on a weekly basis.

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