Fitbits and other fitness trackers could soon be used to detect early symptoms of coronavirus

  • 16 May - 22 May, 2020
  • Mag The Weekly
  • Mag Files

While fitness trackers are great for counting your steps, they may also play an important part in the fight against coronavirus. One of the principal concerns surrounding the spread of coronavirus has been asymptomatic carriers – people who show no symptoms and could unknowingly spread the disease – and people who only show mild symptoms that don't immediately alert them to the infection. But according to the Scripps Research Institute, fitness trackers may soon be an invaluable tool in alerting people to a coronavirus infection soon after they've contracted the disease and before any symptoms set in. This may help save their lives and the lives of people who could come in contact with them. In a report published in January that focused on influenza, Scripps detailed how fitness trackers could be used to alert health officials to emerging outbreaks in real time. By using de-identified data from tens of thousands of Fitbit owners in the United States over a two-year span, scientists were able to "significantly improve predictions of influenza-like illness at the state level" when compared with data from the Centers for Disease Control. The key sources of information given by the fitness trackers were sleep, activity and heart tracking data. Fitbit is now collaborating with the Scripps Research Institute and Stanford Medicine to determine if this information could help provide an early indication of a viral illness like coronavirus.