mHealth effectively predicts flu outbreaks, study finds

An mHealth tool predicted influenza outbreak earlier than an established surveillance system in China, according to new research out of Cambridge, Mass.-based Harvard University.

The researcher team — led by Yulin Hswen of Boston-based Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and Boston Children's Hospital — analyzed data from Thermia, a digital health application that enables parents to monitor their child's fever and associated illnesses, including influenza.

The researchers considered 44,999 Thermia observations from China, which they compared against monthly cases of influenza reported by one of China's health agencies, called the National Health and Family Planning Commission. They published their findings in the American Journal of Public Health.

Thermia predicted influenza outbreak one month earlier than the national commission's established surveillance system. "Digital health applications could supplement traditional influenza surveillance systems in China by providing access to consumers' symptom reporting," the researchers concluded.

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