More Flu-Related Deaths in Minnesota

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Google Flu Trends and social media tools like Twitter have attempted to capture real-time flu surveillance data, but the authors noted they have been less than successful, with Google Flu Trends missing early waves of the 2009 H1N1 pandemic strain, as well as overestimating activity during flu outbreaks. All Fitbit users, including those whose data are included in this study, are notified that their de-identified data could potentially be used for research in the Fitbit Privacy Policy. And while there are many reasons why someone's resting heart rate might be elevated aside from flu - lack of sleep, stress, weight gain - Radin found that, for a large population, the spikes in heart rate correlated with historical flu data.

According to the Oklahoma State Department of Health's weekly flu activity summary, the number of flu deaths have increased by 6, including the state's first child death, making the total 20 in Oklahoma since September 1.

In a Comment article, Dr Cécile Viboud of the Fogarty International Center, National Institutes of Health, USA, said: "The study by Radin et al is a promising first step towards integrating wearable measurements in predictive models of infectious diseases".

The World Smartly being Group estimates that as many as 650,000 other folks worldwide die of respiratory diseases linked to seasonal flu yearly. "We're excited by the potential wearables can play in helping to better predict the flu and the positive impact that can have on both those with the flu and the healthcare system", the company said.

As traditional surveillance reporting can take anywhere from one to three weeks to report, it limits the ability to quickly enact response measures.

Overall, about 47,000 users had data included. There is still plenty of time to get one as flu season runs through May.

"When someone gets an infection, typically associated with a fever, their resting heart rate rises; that's their physiological response", says study author and epidemiologist Jennifer Radin.

For example, a user's average heart rate may have increased or decreased based on how much exercise they were getting and how physically fit they were.

The researchers initially reviewed data from 200,000 Fitbit users. The average age was 43 and 60 per cent were female.

The sample size was reduced by only using data from those who used their Fitbits consistently during the study period, which was from March 2016 to March 2018.

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