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New App Seeks Help to Fight Flu Outbreaks

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Flu Near You needs your help as it tracks down the outbreak of flu in the United States. It is an app that collects self ? reported incidents of flu from people in different areas to beat this infectious disease.

Launched in 2011, this site has been tracking the presence of flu with the help of approximately 80, 000 participants. Over half of this number responds actively to weekly email updates. This information is according to Mark Smolinski, the Director of Skoll Global Threats Fund?s Global Health Threats Division and also one of the site?s admins.

Flu Near You

This app was created in partnership with HealthMap, a globally expansive project of the Boston Children?s Hospital to track outbreaks of infectious diseases. Those people who register on the app are sent weekly emails with flu ? related questions.

Participants are asked whether they are experiencing any of the symptoms provided in a list or if they have had flu shots. Some of the symptoms indicated in the list are fatigue, fever and sore throat.

After the answers are collected, colored dots will appear on areas where the respondents live. An orange dot represents some symptoms, while the blue dot means there are no reported symptoms and red is a clear indication of influenza ? like illness, based how the CDC defined flu.

During the first week of January, over 80.9% of respondents reported no symptoms, while 19.1% indicated some symptoms and the remaining experienced influenza ? like symptoms.

It Lets You Know Where Flu Shot is Available

The app also provides information on where people can receive flu shots in their area. Flu Near You has a goal of reducing reported influenza ? related deaths annually in the country. CDC estimates yearly deaths as high as 49, 000.

Smolinski hopes that the site becomes an informational tool for people to finally end the outbreak of the deadly disease.

An Alarmingly Increasing Number?

Smolinski saw how Flu Near You was able to participate greatly during the flu season in 2012. It was the year where over 22, 000 influenza ? related deaths were recorded in the United States. This number only covered the end of September until the end of the year.

Smolinski has given a partial credit to CNN for the success of the app.

A Viable and Accurate Resource

Flu Near You does not only wishes to gain attention, but also to maintain a consistent number of participants in order to generate an accurate health resource.

Smolinski believes that the system will be very helpful if participants remain consistent. He further said that achieving big hits and getting more people to join means there is a good spread of awareness.

Smolinski plans to encourage people to consistently use the app by introducing it to younger people like those in Boy Scout and Girl Scout troupes and integrating it into the workplace.

Flu Near You may be the key to finally ending the outbreak of flu, considering the first North American who died from avian flu and the increasing number of flu deaths in the United States.

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