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Health & Wellness

UB researchers to track flu season via smartphone survey

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Michael Mroziak, WBFO
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Tracking the spread of flu in Western New York? There's an app for that! University at Buffalo researchers are seeking individuals who will participate in a smartphone project that will track how the flu spreads this season.

After completing an initial survey, participants will be given instructions for downloading a survey app for their smartphones. (Click here for UB's flu survey web page). Once the app is on one's smartphone, the participant will log in once a week to answer questions, including whether they were sick, if they came into contact with anyone who was and where they were over the course of the week.

The purpose of the survey, says project coordinator Melissa Miller, is to track how quickly the flu spreads and to identify what communities may be most vulnerable. 

Although the flu is a nuisance to most who catch it, the illness can be deadly to certain populations including the elderly.

"It's estimated that flu-associated deaths range from 3,000 to 40,000 a year in the United States," Miller said. "In light of this, we decided to develop a flu survey app to be a novel way for people to participate in a flu survey."

Volunteers are sought in Erie and Niagara Counties. The more, the merrier, Miller suggests. 

"We need households to participate because that's the home contact network," she said. "The more people we get, the more reliable the network we're going to be able to build."

The project is funded by a $2.7 million grant by the National Institute of General Medical Sciences.

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