SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - Scripps Research is partnering with transit and healthcare workers to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus.
Scientists started analyzing data from smart watches and fitness trackers in March to detect if someone is infected with a virus like COVID-19 before they are aware of it.
“When your heart beats faster than usual, it can mean that you’re coming down with a cold, flu, coronavirus or other viral infection." Jennifer Radin, PhD, Epidemiologist at Scripps Research says sleep and activity levels are good indicators as well.
Dr. Radin is leading the study and said the coronavirus was the impetus to get the project off the ground. Dr. Radin said detection is key to save lives and stop the spread.
"If we can know where these hot spots are quicker and faster, public health officials can respond quicker," she said. Currently, she said data from the CDC takes a couple weeks. The activity monitors allow scientists at Scripps Research to have instant access to trends.
The study chose frontline workers because, "due to the nature of their jobs, transit and healthcare workers are at higher risk of exposure to COVID-19 and other contagious respiratory illnesses,” Dr. Radin, PhD, said.
Monica Valencia is a Senior Transit Store Clerk at MTS and lost her father in law Friday to COVID-19. He just turned 60 and had symptoms a week before he was admitted to the hospital.
She said two weeks after he was admitted he was gone.
"I want to do anything and everything I can so every other family can avoid this situation." She said she was glad to hear about the study and hope it helps in the future.
"We have to start somewhere and we have to start documenting things, and starting here it's only going to help things moving forward," she said with determination.
Fitbit donated 500 wristbands that scientists distributed to San Diego Metropolitan Transit System workers and nurses and physicians at Scripps Health.
So far they study garnered 34,000 participants and Dr. Radin hopes to bring in even more data. Anyone over the age of 18 with a smartwatch or activity tracker, such as a Fitbit device, Apple Watch or Garmin Watch, can join the study, according to their press release.
Dr. Radin said this research started way before COVID-19. She published a paper in January analyzing 200,000 fitbit users' data to detect the flu.