Fitbit could help predict flu outbreaks in real-time


FILE – In this Aug. 16, 2018, file photo, the new Fitbit Charge 3 fitness trackers with sport bands are displayed in New York. Nine privacy, social justice and consumer groups are calling for the U.S. federal government to block Google’s $2.1 billion acquisition of fitness-gadget maker Fitbit, citing antitrust and privacy concerns. (AP Photo/Richard Drew, File)

(CNN) – Your Fitbit could be doing a lot more than tracking your trips to the store — it may help health officials stop the flu from spreading too.

Researchers reviewed de-identified data — which the company’s privacy policy allows it to use for research — from users wearing Fitbits and found that they were able to do real-time flu prediction at the state level.

Researchers tracked deviations in heart rate and sleep patterns — which tend to change when a person has the flu — and compared that data to flu-like illness rates reported by the centers for disease control and prevention.

Study authors say this marks the first time heart rate trackers and sleep data have been used to predict the flu or any infectious disease in real time.

20% of children under 5 — and approximately seven percent of working adults — get the flu each year.

It results in 650,000 deaths annually worldwide.

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