Could Fitbit be a flu warning tool?

January 17, 2020, 12:58 AM UTC

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Many of you likely have a Fitbit around your wrists to track those steps and all the flights of stairs climbed. A new study published in the journal Lancet suggests that it could even help suss out the flu.

Using data from nearly 50,000 Fitbit users across five states, prominent digital health experts such as Eric Topol and Jennifer Radin found that collecting the heart rate and sleep data from the devices could alert users—and care providers—to possible influenza-like illness (ILI) symptoms.

“We found the Fitbit data significantly improved ILI predictions in all five states [examined],” wrote the study authors.

In fact, the researchers found, using the Fitbit data provided a major boost in state health authorities’ ability to predict the progress of flu epidemics.

This is likely linked to the number of Fitbit users out there—and, according to the report, the results were comparable to the Centers for Disease Control’s own methods of disease surveillance.

It’s still unclear if Fitbit devices will prove just as effective as more comprehensive surveillance methods for keeping track of disease outbreaks. But it’s certainly an intriguing early prospect.

Read on for the day’s news.

Sy Mukherjee


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