Phone app forecasts sickness around country - WFSB 3 Connecticut

Phone app forecasts sickness around country

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Sickweather app Sickweather app
(CBS) -

A new phone app possibly predicting the spread of viruses and disease across the country.

It's called "SickWeather".

Users can think of the app in weather terms, as the "Doppler radar" for sickness.

The app monitors Facebook and Twitter for the illnesses people are talking about then compiles that information into a map.

Open up the Sickweather app to see if what's going around a specific area is the flu.

The Sickweather app also reports the spike with a dark pink dot.

The app's information comes from social media posts -- picking up on words like fever, flu, or cough.

“It's interesting that people are willing to put that information out there,” said Epidemiologist Kendra Dougherty. “Unfortunately, with a self-report like that, there is no standard for how they were diagnosed.”

Surprisingly though, the app's creator Graham Dodge says reports their data is almost spot on with the CDC's. Dodge says through a series of filters the program is able to toss out words and phrases that might skew results.

Dr. Brett Cauthen said he is still skeptical.

“Do I think it's a valid predictor of disease and should my patients make personal decisions based on what the app tells them? No,” Cauthen said.

Dodge says despite the skepticism, one study said the information collected from Twitter reporting the flu was about two weeks ahead of the CDC reports.

The app is free to download, and gives push alerts, notifying users when they are coming in to a “sick area.”

The app can be found in an app store.

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