BOSTON: Scientists have developed an app that provides insights on COVID-19 hotspots, and the symptoms users must look out for, an advance that may aid public health officials in their efforts to contain the pandemic.
According to the study, published in the journal Science, the COVID Symptom Tracker app has already seen early usage by more than 2.5 million people in the US and the UK, generating valuable data for physicians, scientists, and public officials.
"The app collects daily information from individuals in the community about whether they feel well, and if not, their specific symptoms, and if they have been tested for COVID-19," said study senior author Andrew T.
Chan from the Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) in the US.
The scientists said it may be useful as a planning tool to inform guidelines around self-isolation, identify regions in need of additional ventilators, expand hospital capacity, and provide real-time data to prepare for future outbreaks.
They said the app was launched in the UK on March 24, and became available in the US on March 29.
Since its launch, the study noted that the app has seen more than 3 million users.
"This work has led to the development of accurate models of COVID-19 infection rates in the absence of sufficient population testing," Chan said.
"For example, the UK government has acted upon these estimates by providing advanced notice to local health authorities about when to expect a surge of cases," he added.
Using results from the app, the scientists are also investigating risk factors for infection, as well as the effects of COVID-19 on patients' health.
Chan also pointed out that the app does not have any contact tracing function in contrast with software that is being rolled out in collaboration with Apple and Google.
"Our app is designed to be entirely voluntary so that they can share information about how they are feeling in a way that safeguards their privacy," he added.
The scientists are asking individuals, even those who are feeling well, to download the app and participate in this effort to provide information related to COVID-19.