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IUPUI informatics student helps develop app to forecast flu outbreaks

IUPUI students win US Department of Defense competition with FluCast, a new app to predict outbreaks

A bioinformatics master's student in the IU School of Informatics and Computing at IUPUI helped develop a mobile app that one day may be used to forecast outbreaks of seasonal flu and other illnesses.

Sandeep Shantaram and other student researchers developed the prototype application as interns at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory for the Biosurveillance Mobile App Development Intern Competition, an annual challenge sponsored by the laboratory and the U.S. Department of Defense. The competition was funded by the Defense Threat Reduction Agency.

The mobile app, called FluCast, won the competition and is now undergoing testing and development through the Defense Threat Reduction Agency's Biosurveillance Ecosystem program.

The competition focused on exploring solutions to biosurveillance challenges, demonstrating how mobile devices enable access to health care information and resources, making them an ideal option for addressing the needs of digital disease detection. 

"FluCast focuses on risk assessment and seasonal flu forecasting using historic flu case information in correlation with weather data and social media to provide a real-time flu risk assessment," Shantaram said. A collaboration platform for analytics and an RSS feed of flu-related news and Twitter mentions are other features of FluCast.

"The FluCast app can be used to keep track of what is happening in the biological world, monitor it and draw attention to areas where there might be anticipated issues," Shantaram said. "The app would provide the ability to capture data like geographic location, track any noticeable issues of concern and provide the information such that protocols could be communicated and implemented to reduce the risk of epidemics or outbreaks, like that experienced with the Ebola outbreak."

Source: IUPUI News