Cell phones monitor flu on campus

Researchers at Duke University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill recently found a new way to identify college students who are most at risk for contracting the flu -- analyzing personal health and lifestyle data from smartphones and wearable devices.

Using a mobile app to keep track of the people students interact with as well as when, the scientists created a model that predicts how influenza spreads from person to person.

"We didn't have this kind of personalized health data until a few years ago," Katherine Heller, a statistician at Duke University, said. "But now, smartphones and wearable health and fitness devices allow us to collect information like a person's heart rate, blood pressure, social interactions and activity levels with much more regularity and more accurately than was possible before. You can keep a continuous logbook."

This method is different from other infection models that only focus on various changes at the population level. This innovative approach offers a daily, personalized forecast for each of the students on campus.

"We want to leverage that data to predict what people's individual risk factors are and give them advice to help them reduce their chances of getting sick," Heller said.

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University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill

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