A team of researchers at the University of Iowa have tested a new method to measuring flu rates in a particular area of the human eye by recording data from an electronic thermometer device connected to a mobile phone.
The researchers say this technique can help improve the predictability of some outbreaks and help fight and stop the disease.
"We found the smart thermometer data are highly correlated with information obtained from traditional public health surveillance systems and can be used to improve forecasting of influenza-like illness activity, possibly giving warnings of changes in disease activity weeks in advance," Aaron Miller, a postdoctoral scholar at University of Iowa in the US, was quoted as saying in international media outlets.
"Using simple forecasting models, we showed that thermometer data could be effectively used to predict influenza levels up to two to three weeks into the future," said Miller.
"Given that traditional surveillance systems provide data with a lag time of one to two weeks, this means that estimates of future flu activity may actually be improved up to four or five weeks earlier," he added.
As part of the study, the research team collected eight million readings from 450,000 independent electronic thermometers between August 2015 to December 2017. The thermometer encrypts the identity of mobile phones in order to protect the privacy of the participants, for example, the age and type of participant.
Data from 50 US states were collected and categorized so that influenza spread activities were determined by region and age group.