Track Flu Outbreaks on Campuses


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Photo courtesy of shutterstock.com

A new smartphone app can help identify college students at risk of catching the flu, say researchers at UNC-Chapel Hill and Duke University.

With help from a mobile app called iEpi, which uses Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and mobile connections to monitor the people students interact with and when they interact, epidemiologist Allison Aiello of UNC-Chapel Hill and statistician Katherine Heller of Duke University have developed a model that enables them to predict the spread of influenza from one person to the next over time.

In theory, doctors could use such data to identify and alert at-risk students before they get sick or start to feel symptoms, or to encourage them to stay at home to avoid infecting other students. Although this year’s flu season won’t peak until winter, it starts to ramp up as early as October. Close living quarters, low flu vaccination rates and busy social calendars make college students particularly prone to catching the virus.

Of the nation’s 18 million undergraduates, more than one in five are likely to get the flu this year.

Learn more about iEpi at dukechronicle.com/multimedia/17105.

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