A virus-detection app can help you keep your family safe by alerting you to outbreaks that might occur, a study shows.
The researchers found that the app is especially effective at detecting viral-induced illness and infections, such as influenza, coronavirus and the coronaviruses SARS and HIV.
“We tested a wide variety of influenza virus detection apps on people to see what worked best for them,” says lead researcher Daniel Deutsch, a senior research scientist at the University of Illinois.
“Some of the best apps were very simple to use, such like MyViruses, and we found that they did not provide the most robust information, but they were a great way to get an alert if you had an outbreak.”
The researchers tested the apps on 21 people with no known flu symptoms.
They then asked each of the people to sign in using their Facebook account and to share with their friends if they were concerned.
“If a person is very concerned about influenza, they could sign up with their Facebook and use it to let their friends know,” Deutsch says.
“But if a person has never had an influenza episode before, they should go back to the app and try to find out if it is really an outbreak or if it could be related to the previous episode.
If a person did not use a mobile phone during the first week after they received the alert, it is likely that the person did it accidentally.”
The study found that people who use mobile phones for communication or for routine daily tasks were the most likely to have a good flu warning.
People who use computers for work or other activities were less likely to be warned about an outbreak.
But the most common virus-based warnings were based on the number of virus strains present in the air, such that people with higher levels of infection were more likely to receive a virus-related warning.
“This is the first study that has demonstrated that an app can be useful in helping people to stay healthy,” says study author and doctoral student Elizabeth McDonough, an assistant professor of epidemiology at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“The ability to alert people to potential outbreaks or illnesses in a timely fashion is an important tool to have in place.”
The findings are published online by the journal PLOS ONE.
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