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November 2013 Flusurvey.ie, Hosted at NUI Galway, Aims to Track the Spread of Seasonal Flu in Ireland
Flusurvey.ie, Hosted at NUI Galway, Aims to Track the Spread of Seasonal Flu in Ireland
The site, a collaboration between NUI Galway, the HSE and the Health Protection Surveillance Centre, will provide real time data about the spread of the flu
Flusurvey.ie is a new website that will map the spread of the seasonal flu and allow health authorities and members of the public fight against the seasonal flu.
Flusurvey.ie is part of Influenzanet, already used in other European countries, which is an innovative development using on-line volunteers to support existing influenza monitoring systems. It is a research collaboration between NUI Galway, the HSE/Health Protection Surveillance Centre, and international partners from the EU-wide Influenzanet project.
The system will indicate to those that register, how many other cases are recorded in their area. It will provide valuable real-time public health information on the demographics and geographic location of influenza sufferers. Using internet technology it provides public health agencies across Europe with novel opportunities for gathering data from members of the public on infectious diseases such as influenza.
Volunteers register online and self-report by answering short questions relating to demographic, medical, socio-economic and lifestyle issues. The information received is anonymous and only general non-specific information is made available.
Participants can view interactive maps with influenza data broken down at their local and national levels, and the system can map the spread of the disease in its early stages, and provide health professionals with an early warning signal of nationwide outbreaks.
Project Leader Dr. Jim Duggan, Senior Lecturer at the College of Engineering and Informatics, and Researcher at the Ryan Institute, says that “Modern technology can transform the way people interact with their physicians, and the wider public health system. This new project will demonstrate the potential for national self-reporting systems, and the approach can be extended for surveillance of other diseases, especially those which are not being monitored regularly through traditional public health surveillance.”
Dr. Darina O’Flanagan of the HSE/HPSC welcomed the initiative and said that Flusurvey.ie / Influenzanet will be a useful addition to flu surveillance in Ireland and that the information gathered will be aggregated to complement existing methods of influenza surveillance, and to support modelling and analysis activities.
Seasonal influenza is a highly contagious viral disease that is characterised by a sudden onset of fever, accompanied by muscle pain or headache, and a cough or sore throat. In Ireland, the influenza season typically starts in October, and continues through to late May. In additional to the debilitating nature of influenza for individuals, international studies have consistently highlighted the adverse economic impact of the virus due to absenteeism, and also how it can adversely impact on an individual’s productivity in the workplace.
Influenzanet is accessible at http://flusurvey.ie, and will be available to the general public from Monday November 4th, 2013.