New tech helps you avoid the flu

New tech helps you avoid the flu

Getting smart with influenza data to predict as early as 18 days ahead of outbreaks

by Kurt Knutsson

For all the good and bad that technology brings to our lives, predicting when the flu is likely to infect you is among one of the best innovations.

Old way versus New way

Let me explain.  Before, we’ve had a lot of disjointed health data coming from different sources like your local health department and labs.  Then, the CDC started to gather the data but never really cut through with a meaningful front-end tool for people to make sense of how the flu is spreading.

Leave it up to private enterprise that now combines that influenza data with their connected thermometer invention to tell a more accurate story and give it a hyper-local forecast for getting the flu.

Kinsa the smart thermometer behind early detection of the flu, Covid-19, or a stomach bug spreading in your neck of the woods has now sold millions of their highly acclaimed connected thermometers.

How this new thermometer can forecast 2 weeks ahead of a flu outbreak near you

When you are able to take in real-time information about what each thermometer is anonymously gathering, the collective symptoms rising in an area can give you a warning as early as two weeks before an outbreak becomes serious.

Kinsa Health takes the data collected from millions of smart thermometers, flu case numbers, Covid-19 diagnoses from public health institutions such as Johns Hopkins University.  Then they source clinical lab test data documenting ailments like strep throat, influenza, and Covid-19.

Combining all of that data with how people are using smart thermometers and where lets them accurately forecast health outbreaks in local areas and across states.  It’s rather brilliant.

Free flu alerts can help you fend off an outbreak

You can sign up for their free email and text alerts to know when your local illness rate changes. I’m no doctor, but I have tested and researched their detection technology.

What I’ve found is it’s historically very accurate.  You can compare when Covid-19 deaths were reported by health departments and see that Kinsa’s Health Weather forecasted an unusual spike in fevers about 18 days before they happened.

I don’t own one of their smart thermometers, but will be getting one the next time I need to replace my old one. In the meantime, you don’t need to own a smart thermometer to benefit from knowing when the flu is coming your way.

Other flu tracking worth looking at

Outbreaksnearme.org lets you see a snapshot of Covid-19 and influenza in your community.  It’s not as much of an early warning system but can serve as confirmation when you suspect flu is on the rise.

A group of epidemiologists and software developers at Boston Children’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School created this crowdsourced outbreak tool. You can enter your zip code to see a map of outbreaks reported near you.

While the CDC truly sucks at creating easy-to-use tools, you have to give them credit for building the ILI Network backbone of health data related to outbreak reporting.  If you can make much sense without the time-consuming learning curve of the CDC’s FluView Interactive map, please tell me your secret.

I’m glad epidemiologists and engineers from a private smart thermometer company were smart enough to create a useful way to track outbreaks without my needing to get a medical degree.

Which Smart Thermometer is right for you

Kinsa Smart Thermometers are available in oral, ear and non-contact models that are all FDA-cleared.  I plan to get the no-contact one in the future. Reviews are high on the non-contact and oral versions with the ear model falling into third place in the ratings.

Kinsa Non-Contact Smart Thermometer 

Kinsa Oral Smart Thermometer

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