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Region 5 Blog June 30th, 2022
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Flu Near You: “Spread the word.  Not the flu”

Posted by on April 13th, 2020 Posted in: Citizen Science, Data Science, Public Health, Training & Education
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The flu is a worrisome illness that kills thousands in the United States annually.  Have you ever wondered how bad an influenza-like sickness, like the flu, is spreading in your respective community?  Well, the citizen science project “Flu Near You” helps to answer that question while at the same time it is a preventative measure that could prepare you to help prevent the next pandemic.

The idea behind Flu Near You was conceived by epidemiologists from both Harvard University and Boston Children’s Hospital.  Flu Near You leverages the power of the crowd to provide real-time information about flu-like-illness in your respective living or working areas.  Basically, anybody can participate in tracking flu-like-illnesses in your area.

This is how Flu Near You works.  All you need is internet access and a smartphone or computer.  On their SciStarter project page or on their own project page, participants are asked to complete a quick, like 30 seconds maximum, weekly survey to share whether you feel healthy or sick.  Participation is voluntary and your individual report is treated confidentially.

At the end of your data collection, you are given a health dashboard of your community that shows how well your community and neighboring ones are doing flu-wise.  The following health dashboard shows the health of my community in Seattle as of Friday, April 10th, 2020, noon PT.

So, what happens with your data?  Scientists will use your data, along with thousands of other reports, to generate local and national maps of influenza-like illness. This important crowd-sourced information provides public health officials and researchers with real-time, anonymous information that could help prevent the next pandemic.

Participating in a Flu Near You can help keep our communities healthy and strong!

Image of the author ABOUT Nancy Shin
I received my Bachelor of Science in the Integrated Sciences majoring in medical genetics and animal biology from the University of British Columbia (UBC). I also graduated from UBC's esteemed MLIS program with a focus on health librarianship. In 2018, I was the Research Data Management Sewell Fund Fellow for the Technology Incubator at Washington State University. Currently, I'm the NNLM Region 5's Outreach and Data Coordinator for the University of Washington's Health Sciences Library. In my spare time, I enjoy photography, drawing, cooking and baking, and travelling the world!!!

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Developed resources reported in this program are supported by the National Library of Medicine (NLM), National Institutes of Health (NIH) under cooperative agreement number UG4LM012343 with the University of Washington.

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