Not only was my family sick over our winter vacation in December, my kids are sick again now, a month later, and so am I. Sigh. But, I found the perfect citizen science project to go along with my sore throat.
Flu Near You is a tool that allows individuals to report and track infectious diseases. It was created by epidemiologists at Harvard, Boston Children’s Hospital and The Skoll Global Threats Fund because tracking flu symptoms is slow when they rely on doctor’s offices to do the reporting. Many people don’t even visit the doctor when they have flu-like symptoms.
If you sign up with Flu Near You, your personal information will remain completely confidential, and your report will be anonymous to the researchers. Once a week, you’ll receive an e-mail reminding you to report any symptoms—or no symptoms—that your family is experiencing. Even if you don’t think you have the flu, but you have a sore throat, you should report that. You cannot know for certain if you have the flu unless you visit a doctor, so Flu Near You does not expect you to know exactly what you have. You simply click on any symptoms. They have recently added more symptoms so that they can identify potential outbreaks of other diseases, such as Zika, Chikungunya, or Dengue fever.
It only takes a minute to make the report. Flu Near You will collect these reports and list them on a map that you can access on their website. This way, you’ll know if there is a flu outbreak where you are traveling to or in your local area. If there is, you can take extra precaution.
I signed up for Flu Near You, and they only asked me for my e-mail address, birthdate, gender, and zip code. I was able to add other family members using nicknames, but this was optional. When reporting, I simply click on any symptoms we have (or “no symptoms”) and then click “report.” It was that easy.
And that’s my year of citizen science projects! Thank you to everyone who has been following along.