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Atishoo! New website maps the spread of flu across Ireland

Got chills, aches and a fever? If you’re suffering with the flu right now, it might just help to know that you’re not alone.

Image: Woman sneezing via Shutterstock

GOT CHILLS, ACHES and a fever? If you’re suffering with the flu right now, it might just help to know that you’re not alone.

A new website set up by researchers in NUI Galway is tracking flu-like symptoms across Ireland to create a map of outbreaks around the country.

The website asks people with symptoms – such as a sudden fever, headache, aching muscles and a sore throat – to note them on flusurvey.ie.

People can log on to the site to see how many other cases of flu have been recorded in their area, providing real-time public health information on who is being hit by influenza. The system is also designed to give health professionals an early warning signal about nationwide outbreaks.

Volunteers are asked a few short questions about their age, lifestyle and symptoms, with the information recorded anonymously.

Since it launched just over a month ago, the project has had participants from 42 out of Ireland’s 43 constituencies. Forty-three per cent of the people who have taken part so far are between the age of 15 and 44, while 42 per cent are between 45 and 64. Just 9 per cent are aged 65 or over, possibly reflecting the fact that older people may be less likely to use the internet to note their symptoms.

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Map of flu-like symptoms across Ireland. (Pic: Flusurvey.ie)

“Modern technology can transform the way people interact with their physicians, and the wider public health system,” said Dr Jim Duggan, a senior lecturer at NUIG and the project leader.

He said the project will help to show the potential for national self-reporting systems which could be used for monitoring other diseases.

There are plans to arrange for Transition Year students to be able to receive their school’s anonymised data in order to conduct analysis and experiments on how flu-like illness spreads through their community.

The HSE, EU, and NUI Galway collaborated on the website to coincide with influenza season, which typically starts in October and continues until May.

Read: The 9 unmistakeable symptoms of manflu >

Read: Vaccine reminder issued as HSE says 1,000 could die in severe flu season >

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