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Can your Fitbit predict if you’re going to get Coronavirus?

Can your Fitbit predict if you’re going to get Coronavirus?

Amine Sahal
Fitbit Coronavirus

Your Fitbit doesn’t just count the number of steps you take or the hours you sleep, it can also tell if you’re going to get the flu. One study shows that data collected by the connected wristbands can predict the arrival of the disease. As a disclaimer, the article is based on scientific researches done on users having an Influenza-A. However, knowing that the symptoms of the coronavirus (COVID-19) are almost the same you can get use of your available gadget to track the state of your health.

Your connected Fitbit follows you everywhere by recording your physical activity in real-time. For researchers at the U.S. Scripps Research Translational Institute, the data collected can predict whether you will get the flu, and help authorities prepare for an outbreak. This research was done before the pandemic started.

More than 13 million Fitbit measurements analyzed

The US scientific team studied the heart functions and sleep patterns of nearly 47,249 Fitbit users in 5 different US states, representing more than 13,000,000 daily measurements. The average heart rate and sleep cycle were measured for each of them.

If their average weekly resting heart rate was higher than their overall average and their night-time habits changed – signs of the flu – they were identified as having “abnormal” behavior. The proportion of people so identified was then compared with information published in the weekly epidemic progress bulletins of the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

In this post, you can see real data of a person diagnosed with an Influenza-A

I had the flu (influenza-A – diagnosed) back in February. It wasn’t terrible, except for one night in particular. I felt really crumby, like my heart was pounding all night. When I checked my fitbit, this is what I found. My normal at-rest rate is around 75 or so. from r/fitbit


Fitbit improves tracking of the flu and the Coronavirus

By incorporating Fitbit tracker data, federal flu forecasts have been improved. In all five states, real-time surveillance of the outbreak was also more refined compared to other states.

Quoting from the Scripps Research:

Using de-identified data from Fitbit devices that were equipped with sleep- and heart rate-tracking capabilities, scientists were able to show that they could significantly improve predictions of influenza-like illness at the state level when compared with data from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The findings appear in The Lancet Digital Health.

“When people get an infection, their resting heart rate tends to increase and their daily activities will change, as will sleep patterns,” says Jennifer Radin, PhD, epidemiologist at Scripps Research Translational Institute and the first author of the study. “By leveraging wearable technology that a large share of our population is already using, public health officials may be able to identify influenza-like illness rates faster and more precisely than what is currently possible.”

A predictive tool that still has some limitations

This study shows the interest of these connected devices in the fight against this disease that kills 650,000 people a year. However, the researchers identified several limitations. These monitors are mainly worn by middle-aged adults (about 43 years old) with higher incomes than the average population. They are also more likely to get flu shots or take medication if they get sick, which may reduce the severity of the disease, “so the models may need to be modified for use in other populations,” the research authors say.

In addition, such products measure the average weekly heart rate indiscriminately. Thus, the increase in heart rate may have different origins such as stress or other diseases. In addition, weekly resting heart rate averages can include days when a person is both sick and healthy, which can lead to an underestimation of illness by lowering the weekly averages.

Researchers believe that new studies and improved technology will lead to the development of a reliable and relevant flu prediction tool.

Coronavirus symptoms: How to recognize it? World Health Organization

The COVID-19 virus affects different people in different ways.  COVID-19 is a respiratory disease and most infected people will develop mild to moderate symptoms and recover without requiring special treatment.  People who have underlying medical conditions and those over 60 years old have a higher risk of developing severe disease and death.

Common coronavirus symptoms include:

  • fever
  • tiredness
  • dry cough.

Other symptoms include:

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  • shortness of breath
  • aches and pains
  • sore throat
  • and very few people will report diarrhoea, nausea or a runny nose.

People with mild symptoms who are otherwise healthy should self-isolate and contact their medical provider or a COVID-19 information line for advice on testing and referral.

People with fever, cough or difficulty breathing should call their doctor and seek medical attention.

The COVID-19 virus affects different people in different ways.  COVID-19 is a respiratory disease and most infected people will develop mild to moderate symptoms and recover without requiring special treatment.  People who have underlying medical conditions and those over 60 years old have a higher risk of developing severe disease and death.

Common symptoms include:

  • fever
  • tiredness
  • dry cough.

Other symptoms include:

  • shortness of breath
  • aches and pains
  • sore throat
  • and very few people will report diarrhoea, nausea or a runny nose.

People with mild symptoms who are otherwise healthy should self-isolate and contact their medical provider or a COVID-19 information line for advice on testing and referral.

Conclusion:

The symptoms of the Coronavirus can increase the stress on the heart – increasing heart rate. This can be tracked by your smartwatch (Fitbit, Huawei bands, or others) during your resting time.

People with fever, cough or difficulty breathing or any of the symptoms listed above should call their doctor and seek medical attention.

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