A record 17,000 people are sharing their flu symptoms each week for good through a growing online health surveillance system designed to alert health officials to epidemic outbreaks of the potentially life-threatening disease.
Flutracking.net, an initiative of researchers from the University of Newcastle and Hunter New England Health, maps influenza prevalence across Australia.
Flutracking.net co-ordinator, Dr Craig Dalton*, said this year the program had recorded the largest number of participants each week to date.
“This year we have experienced a record number of 17,000 respondents per week – we had a peak response of 12 survey responses per second last Monday morning.
“It is the greatest level of community participation we have experienced since the initiative began eight years ago, which helps improve accuracy.”
Flutracking, the second largest program of its kind in the world after the US Flu Near You program, asks residents of Australia to complete a 10-second weekly online survey about whether they are experiencing flu-like symptoms.
“The survey is a simple way for people to contribute to a greater good,” Dr Dalton said. “With a few clicks of a button from voluntary participants across the country, we receive information that allows health professionals to see where flu is hitting hardest and gauge its severity.”
Anyone with regular access to email is encouraged to participate. People can register at www.flutracking.net and they will be asked to complete the brief survey each Monday morning until 30 October. On completing the survey, participants are directed to the latest flu map and weekly report.
Dr Dalton said that while there has been a low level of influenza across the country so far, it is difficult to forecast the prevalence of the virus throughout the rest of the season.
*Dr Craig Dalton is a public health physician and a Conjoint Senior Lecturer in the University’s Faculty of Health and Medicine, and is supported by the Hunter Medical Research Institute.
HMRI is a partnership between the University of Newcastle, Hunter New England Health and the community.