The weather forecast is common to everyone, but have you heard of forecasting near-term health? This technology is way tougher and on its way to serving us.
Wearable technology, such as smartwatches, is beginning to provide such early warnings, which could be immensely helpful for us knowing early that we may be coming down with the flu or COVID-19.
Jessilyn Dunn is a biomedical engineer at Duke University in Durham, N.C. She was part of a team that analyzed heart rates and other data from wearable devices. These collected data can point to health or disease.
49 volunteers who joined the trial wore sensor-laden wristbands before and after they received a cold or flu virus. At least once per second, these wristbands recorded heart rates, body movements, skin temperatures, and more. These data showed signs of developing illness at least a day before symptoms emerged in nine out of every 10 recruits.
This early warning may prevent severe symptoms that otherwise would send vulnerable people into hospitals. You’ll reduce the chance of spreading your disease and have more rest to speed recovery, if you are given a warning that you’re sick before you have symptoms.
However, these systems are still under study. “This is exciting but also very preliminary, much more work is needed before this approach can be rolled out on a larger scale,” says virologist Stacey Schultz-Cherry, who works at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tenn.