High-Tech Rings Are Tracking COVID-19 'Warning Signs'

TUESDAY, April 7, 2020 (HealthDay News) -- Researchers are gathering data from thousands of Americans to create an "early warning system" that can identify people in the early stages of COVID-19.

More than 12,000 people -- including thousands of health care workers in California and West Virginia -- are already wearing specially designed Oura rings that track their temperature, breathing, heart and activity.

"Our first push is to get as many people involved as possible," said study leader Benjamin Smarr, a professor of data science and bioengineering at University of California, San Diego. "If enough people are involved, we can cover the whole country."

But volunteers don't have to use a monitoring ring; they can also enter their symptoms on an online form.

Initial data analysis suggests that it's possible to predict whether a person is getting sick, if they'll have mild or severe illness, and potentially, whether the illness is COVID-19.

The objective is to create a "weather map" of COVID-19 spread and severity by developing methods for sickness prediction and early alert. Those methods will be made public.

"This will be the deepest data dive into an illness that has been attempted and carried out," Smarr said in a university news release.

The effort has started at hospitals in the San Francisco Bay area and the University of West Virginia.

Participants can also choose to provide swab, stool or blood samples that will be analyzed to confirm infection and immunity.

The research will help health care workers who are infected with COVID-19 stay home at an earlier stage of illness and get treatment sooner, according to project developer Dr. Ashley Mason, an assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of California, San Francisco.

"[The virus] is expected back in the fall and we need to have tools ready," Mason told the San Francisco Chronicle.

More information

The World Health Organization has more on COVID-19.

SOURCE: University of California, San Diego, news release, April 1, 2020

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