If you’ve recently found yourself holding your breath while trapped inside an elevator packed with people coughing and sneezing, then you are definitely not alone. In fact, this dreadfully annoying and icky scenario is sweeping all across America in what many, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), are claiming to be one of the country’s worst flu seasons.
Just last week, the state of Wisconsin experienced three more deaths due to complications of the virus. However, Columbia University experts at the Mailman School of Public Health have created a website that can help you better protect yourself and know when to take the stairs.
Driven by a complex mathematical formula, the ILI+ portion of the website, which is also used for weather forecasting, tracks how the flu spreads across the US. The website also won a CDC contest called “Predict the Influenza Season Challenge,” according to reports by CNN. On the website, you can view a map of the country, select a desired location, hone in on a specific strain of virus and voila, a flu forecast designed to appease
or excite every hypochondriac is instantly displayed. Visitors to the website can even view flu activity dating back weeks.
Like any forecast, the reliability of the information is still to be determined. According to the website, “The ‘accuracy’ of the peak-timing forecast is an estimate of our confidence that the forecast will be within a week of the actual peak-timing.” If accurate, this website has the potential to become an effective planning tool to help regions control, contain and minimize outbreaks of the flu.
If anything, this website offers the hope that someday we’ll have sophisticated digital tools at our disposal to help us navigate the use of public transportation and determine the social events we should or should not attend based on information about the predicted activity of viruses. It can also be a great tool germaphobes can use to get out of work!