Functioning like a weather forecast for sickness, Sickweather may make it easier to avoid areas where people are reporting cases of the flu and other illnesses.
Just in time for back to school season, this new app could give you an edge over illness, by offering a heads-up about where sickness and disease outbreaks are located, so you can avoid those places or take adequate precautions.
If you knew that an outbreak of the flu or other illness was reported in your area, or at a location you're traveling to, it may wise to stay away from those locations, or at the very least, to be proactive about taking every precaution for you and your family, in order to best avoid being exposed to the sicknesses. And at this time of year, when kids are all going back to school and illnesses are getting passed around from student to student, and then on to students' families, knowing where the "Sick Zones" are could be a healthy advantage.
The Sickweather app, which was just named by Condé Nast Traveler as one of the best apps for international travelers, uses a unique method of identifying the locations where people are sick from any of about 20 ailments, including the flu, allergies, norovirus, pink eye, and whooping cough. Instead of relying on public health announcements or news reports, Sickweather scans public social media updates for mentions of sickness, and then plots those reports on an interactive map, allowing users to view where illnesses are prevalent near them, as well as how many reports are in a given area (which may indicate a more serious outbreak.)
"When someone publicly posts 'My kids have the flu' on Facebook or Twitter, Sickweather qualifies that report using a patent-pending process and then plots it on a map, which can be viewed at the local level as a single report, or now by intensity of groups of reports at the regional level, like a radar." - Sickweather
Users of Sickweather can also report their own illness, or the presence of an illness in others, directly through the app, which then adds the report to its "forecast". The app also allows users to sign up for alerts through the service, which uses the GPS on their phone and then notifies them on their smartphone when they are entering an area where the illnesses are being reported.
Here's how Sickweather works, in a nutshell:
According to Sickweather, you don't have to use the app, but can instead access the Live Map and Forecast via their website, but as of this morning, the map wouldn't load for me. However, it does appear to be available on the Sickweather Facebook page. In addition, anyone can sign up for email alerts for various locations, regardless of whether they use the app or not.
The Sickweather app is free for iOS, and a widget with similar functionality is available for some Android devices.