(SWEEPS FEED) From international pandemics to germs in your neighborhood, outbreaks can now been tracked at the touch of your fingertips.
The technology is crucial for Annie Whittington, who is waiting for a kidney transplant. For her, a case of the flu could mean the difference between life and death because she has a weakened immune system.
When she hear there are apps which help people track and avoid disease, Whittington gave it a try. She said the apps help her make traveling arrangements.
“I like to travel so it would be, it would change my vacation plans if I saw an outbreak in an area I wanted to visit,” Whittington said.
Those apps include Sick Weather, which scans social media posts for people who are griping about their illness. Tweets like “I have bronchitis” or Facebook posts like “my son has chickenpox” get the attention of the app, which then maps the location of the posts.
Another outbreak app, Healthy Day, uses medical and crowdsourced data to hyperlocalize the latest cases of colds, coughs and other maladies. Even the Centers for Disease Control has an influenza tracking mobile app.
Dr. Amesh Adalja, an infectious disease expert, called the apps revolutionary.
“It’s really revolutionizing the way we think about disease outbreaks,” he said.
But he also said the influx of information can be overwhelming for users.
“When people get a lot of information that they may not be able to digest or completely understand it can lead to paranoia and fear we saw that during the Ebola outbreak we’re seeing this currently during the Zika virus outbreak so there is that downside,” Dr. Adalja said.
While she waits for a new kidney, Whittington said she’ll use the apps to keep an eye out for outbreaks.
“I think besides my doctors being proactive these apps give me the option to be proactive,” she said.
Apps to track illness:
LYME DISEASE APP