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flusurvey.ie will track the spread of flu across Ireland and provide useful real-time data
Irish people are being asked to volunteer information about their health this winter at flusurvey.ie. Now in its second year, the website is a collaboration between NUI Galway and the HSE - Health Protection Surveillance Centre. Volunteers are asked to register with the site, and log any flu symptoms if and when they develop.
The website asks participants about their overall health and possible influenza symptoms – headaches, fever, sore throats – and maps this information in real-time. This provides valuable real-time information for healthcare professionals on the demographic and geographic profile of people suffering from flu.
The system can map the spread of the disease in its early stages, and provide health professionals with an early warning signal of nationwide outbreaks.
Project Leader Dr Jim Duggan, of NUI Galway’s Ryan Institute, says: “Last winter we tracked data from hundreds of volunteers, with the majority coming from Dublin, Cork and Galway. Amongst our participants, we saw particular spikes in illness in mid-to-late February, and also observed the highest percentage of self-reported flu levels from our survey in the under-18 year age group.”
Flusurvey.ie has demonstrated the potential for self-reporting systems, and the team behind it is building on last year’s success to recruit more participants throughout the country. “Our web system is designed to handle a sizeable nationwide survey, and increasing the numbers who volunteer their health symptoms will enhance the overall information we can share with the HSE-HPSC”, adds Dr Duggan.
Dr Darina O’Flanagan of the HSE-HPSC welcomed the re-launch and said that flusurvey.ie is a useful addition to flu surveillance in Ireland and that the information gathered will be aggregated to complement existing methods of influenza surveillance.
Seasonal influenza is a highly contagious viral disease that is characterised by sudden onset of fever, accompanied by muscle pain or headache, and a cough or sore throat. In Ireland, the influenza season typically starts in October, and continues through to late May.
Volunteers register online and self-report by answering short questions relating to demographic, medical, socio-economic and lifestyle issues. The system is secure, and all patient information is analysed at an aggregate and anonymous level. Participants can also view their individual symptom history, and interactive health maps at local and national levels.
Flusurvey is accessible for registration at https://flusurvey.ie