New app lets you know what areas in Northeast Ohio have a cold or flu outbreak

CLEVELAND, OH (WOIO) - There's an app that claims to track illnesses in your area using real-time crowdsourced information and social media posts and can alert you if you neighborhood, school or office building is seeing a lot of a certain illness.

Sickweather works kind of like a weather app that can show you if illnesses like the common cold, flu or even worse is moving through your area.

"Sickweather is the world's first real-time map of sickness and the largest crowdsourcing community of its kind, processing millions of illness reports each month," the app creators claim.

According to Sickweather CEO Graham Dodge, the data is collected from multiple sources.

"Illnesses are tracked using a patent-pending method for social listening specifically for disease surveillance, combined with crowdsourcing via the Sickweather and Weather Channel apps. Data are then validated using clinical data provided by the CDC and other laboratories," Dodge.

Social listening is the idea of keying on posts on social media where people say things like, "I have the flu."

One of the ways the app works is based on people who are truly sick and are self-reporting on the app.

Once it's reported a little "sick cloud" will pop up on a map, from your location, showing what your illness is.

Users do have the option to "report privately" and their illness won't appear on the map but their data can still be tracked.

As for parents Dodge says, "Most parents use our app for pre-diagnosis.  For example, if Sickweather shows that strep is prevalent in your area, and if your child just developed a fever, then you as the parent may be wise to request a throat culture even if a sore throat hasn't emerged as a symptom yet."

Cleveland 19 reached out to Dr. Amy Edwards, with the Division of Pediatric Infectious Diseases for Rainbow Babies and Children's Hospital for her option of an app that tracks illnesses.

"This could be very beneficial for tracking illnesses in schools, sports programs, or any place where lots of people gather. I think it is brilliant!" said Edwards.

One of her concerns though is the validity of what people are reporting.

"Of course people can put anything they want into the app, my word of caution would be for some of these -- whooping cough, influenza, etc. -- unless the person was diagnosed by a physician we won't know how accurate it is," says Dr. Edwards. "Other things -- common cold, pink eye, etc -- are probably more accurate and less reliant on a doctor to diagnose."

The app has a number of features that can send you alerts. For example a daily "SickScore" which is an aggregate of factors for you community. If it gets too high you will be alerted.

There's also a "SickZone" when you've entered an area going less than 5 miles-per hour, so walking, where there are several illnesses reported you'll receive and alert.

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