Help for tracking, avoiding, and treating the flu

Flu Near You enlists thousands of volunteers to report weekly on flu activity in their areas.
Flu Near You enlists thousands of volunteers to report weekly on flu activity in their areas.
Posted: January 11, 2013

As the flu runs rampant, we sorted through some smartphone applications meant to help track, avoid and treat influenza and other common illnesses. If you are really sick, consult a health professional.

HealthMap: Outbreaks Near Me, from John Brownstein, is free for Android and Apple. From a team at Boston Children's Hospital, this app uses a variety of data sources, including the World Health Organization, Google and EuroSurveillance, to map health alerts all over the world.

Tap "List" to see a feed of health-related reports - most of them flu-related at this time. In a separate section labeled "News," a recap of 2012 health events noted worrisome trends such as last year's doubling of U.S. cases of whooping cough and one of the largest outbreaks of West Nile virus ever seen in this country.

Users are encouraged to submit both human and animal disease reports, including photos.

Another HealthMap app is flu-specific. Flu Near You enlists thousands of volunteers to report weekly on flu activity in their areas. The results are displayed in disturbingly thick clusters of virtual pins on a map and a meter that swings from "none" to "high" depending on the severity and extent of symptom reports.

From the app menu on Flu Near You, a "Vaccine Finder" maps locations of nearby pharmacies administering flu shots.

CDC Influenza is a free app for iPhone from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Tap "Influenza Activity and Surveillance" for the CDC's weekly FluView update and other reports. Unfortunately, the maps and charts offered are difficult to view on a phone screen unless you tap for the "full screen view" to make them bigger.

A menu option to tap for "free resources" in the CDC Influenza app provides links to flu-related videos and podcasts from the CDC, including a video on flu warning signs and videos with celebrity athletes telling why they got flu shots.

A separate FluView app from the CDC simply displays a U.S. map showing the severity of the flu outbreak. Tap on a state to link to its website for flu information.

Is It Contagious?, free for Android and Apple from KidsHealth, is a reference app with hundreds of entries to help parents decide, first, whether symptoms or sickness in a child are catching.

The app goes further, though, to describe complications, treatments, and even which guidelines to use for deciding when it's OK to go back to school or work. An unpleasant picture gallery illustrates the obvious signs of some illnesses.


Contact Reid Kanaley at 215-854-5114, rkanaley@phillynews.com or @ReidKan on Twitter.

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