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Tracking metro Atlanta colds and flu? There's an app for that

It's cold and flu season again here in metro Atlanta and, yes, a whole bunch of us are (cough, cough) sick. But unless someone close to you is suffering chills, fever and the other dreaded symptoms of winter illness, is it really possible to avoid colds and flu like... well, like the plague?

Sickweather.com has an answer. It maps fever, common cold and flu reports around the U.S., thanks to the miracle of social media (where nobody apparently ever takes a sick day). The app scans social media sites for user-posted information and then maps the data. 

"We're the premier health data partner for The Weather Company," Sickweather.com CEO Graham Dodge says. The Atlanta-based business uses Sickweather's real-time data to power the maps in the Health section of its website. Data from the Centers for Disease Control, also headquartered in Atlanta, is still used on weather.com, too.

"The weather.com cold and flu maps are Sickweather-powered now," Dodge says. "The flu map stayed unchanged until this past year when they started using [Sickweather.com's map]."

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But Dodge, who is working with the CDC on another unrelated project, notes that the agency seeks to provide more up-to-date information. Currently, the CDC's U.S. influenza summary map is updated weekly.

"The CDC is proactively looking at better ways to forecast illness in real time," Dodge says.

THE FLU AND YOUA LOOK AT THE SEASON SO FAR

Who's benefiting most from the data Sickweather gathers? Those first responders who launch into action at the first sign of illness. No, not doctors necessarily. We're talking moms.

"Moms of young kids are telling us about using the app. They're not using it for avoidance, but are using it for a pre-diagnostic reference tool," Dodge says. "One mom got a strep throat alert from the app. The next morning her son woke up with a high fever and it changed the way she handled it."

The mother immediately took her son to the doctor and he was diagnosed with strep, Dodge says. She credits Sickweather.com with helping her take a proactive approach to the situation since she had tracking information in hand.

THE FLU AND YOUTIPS, REMEDIES AND MORE

Just as commuters can view real-time traffic tracking apps and plan their routes accordingly, Sickweather.com users are able to keep up with the cold, flu and allergy data in their areas and take action if needed.

"Different people in different situations can use the info to be more proactive, and I think we've never thought of illness in that way," Dodge says. "Sickweather would be the earliest warning you would get."

LEARN MORE: PREVENTING COLDS AND FLU

  • Get a yearly flu vaccine
  • Take preventive actions to stop the spread of germs
  • If prescribed, take flu antiviral drugs

-- Source: Centers for Disease Control

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