Researchers ask WNYers to sign up for new flu tracking app

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AMHERST, N.Y. (WIVB)- From October until April, Western New Yorkers will be coughing, sneezing, and aching as the flu goes around.

A group of UB researchers want to track the spread so they’ve launched and app. They’re asking everyone in Erie and Niagara Counties to download it.

Project Coordinator Melissa Miller explained participants have to fill out a quick, initial questionnaire, then they will be sent the link to download the app. They would like each member of a household to sign up.

Every week during flu season participants will log onto the app and answer a series of questions.

Miller said the questions include, “If you, or anyone you came in contact with, had any flu symptoms in the last week, if you took any protective actions in the last week, if you got a flu shot in the last week […], the last one is your five most frequently visited places during the last week.”

Miller told News 4 you do not need a flu shot to participate.

She said it’s the first survey of its kind, to collect real time information on the flu.

It will be used at the UB site of the National Center for Geographic information and Analysis to help them come up with a computer model that simulates how people come in contact with one another.

“So we’ll infect a simulated person, or persons, and see how the flu spreads through this contact network,” said Miller.

She told News 4 it could determine if certain public places, like shopping centers, are hotbeds for transmitting the flu.

“The main goal of the project is to identify vulnerable populations and vulnerable communities so if there’s a limited supply of vaccine we can target those communities or populations,” said Miller.

The researchers will be able to adapt the computer simulation to other communicable diseases, like H1N1 or SARS.

If you participate you will get a $50 dollar gift card to local business.

Click here to sign up.

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