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Flu Season

Flu Apps: Can Social Technology Keep Us From Falling Sick?

· Business & Technology (rev 18:23) · No Comments

Help, I have the flu Facebook app

(The Guardian)

New Facebook app Help, I Have the Flu scans your friends’ statuses to help you work out who passed on their sickness.

Amid one of the worst flu seasons in years in the US, a new Facebook app is getting in on the germy action.

Help, I Have the Flu – brought to you by pharmaceutical start-up Help Remedies – scans your friends’ Facebook statuses for any mention of “coughs”, “sneezes” or “flu“, to help you figure out who made you sick. The app’s tagline suggests: “Nothing will make you feel better like having someone to blame.”

The Centers for Disease Control aren’t so sure. Before logging in to Facebook to point fingers, the CDC recommends an “influenza vaccination for people who have not yet been vaccinated this season, and anti-viral treatment as early as possible for people who get sick and are at high risk of flu complications.” Guardian readers have also offered up home remedies that make them feel better when felled by the flu.

The symptom witch-hunt that is Help, I Have the Flu may not be as useful to the sick as it is a bit of fun. After all, someone coughing openly next to you on the subway is probably not on your friends list in the first place.

Broader geographic data may be a more useful indicator of the spread of sickness. Last year, an analysis of geolocated tweets in New York that mentioned illness was able to predict the progression of sickness fairly accurately, down to the individual tweeter.

Other web and mobile apps that track the spread of the flu among larger groups than your Facebook circle are also available. They include such titles as HealthMap’s Flu Near You – which also offers health tips –

and Fount.in’s Germ Tracker, a web app that tracks flu trends via social media reports, available from the same researchers behind the New York Twitter study.

Google is continuing its seasonal flu tracker Google Flu Trends, too, which currently shows skyrocketing “flu” searches over the past month. Mapped across the US, Google reports current flu activity as “intense” in 41 states, with the nine remaining states experiencing “high” flu activity when compared to official historic flu data.

The CDC’s own map fits a similar trend – showing “widespread” influenza activity across the US.

Read More (The Guardian)