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Flu Near You GoViral Study: Interview with scientist Rumi Chunara

December 10, 2013

Rumi Chunara is an Instructor and Researcher working with the group HealthMap at Harvard Medical School and Boston Children’s Hospital. She brings together her background in engineering and epidemiology to build and use new tools for improving public health and our knowledge of how and why diseases spread. GoViral is the newest endeavor; a platform that creates a data-driven view of public health that the public can participate in and use directly.


What is Flu Near You and the GoViral study?

Flu Near You is a free and real-time online flu surveillance system administered by Healthmap, a research group at Boston Children’s Hospital. The Flu Near You website and mobile application allows the public to report their health information using a quick weekly survey. Using participant-reported symptoms, Flu Near You graphs and maps this information to provide local and national views of influenza-like illness.

This year we are recruiting people from Massachusetts for GoViral; a next-generation study that will revolutionize infectious disease prevention and awareness by making it community-based and data-driven.

GoViral combines for the first time, online crowdsourced data and diagnostic samples that people can provide themselves from their homes.

What will GoViral participants do?

Participants will receive a weekly survey (via email or push notification on our smartphone app) that takes about 20 seconds to fill out, asking which of 10 symptoms you had in the previous week. Participants will also receive a GoViral test kit they can keep at home. If at anytime you get sick with a fever and sore throat or cough, you will be asked to provide a really easy to obtain spit and/or nasal-swab sample. Participants will also receive a Do-It-Yourself home test that detects 4 different kinds of flu and cold viruses, and all samples will be analyzed at a central laboratory that checks for 20 different viral infections. The kits can be returned by USPS and results from these tests will be used for research purposes only.

We will be collecting and testing samples throughout the flu season (until about April). At the end of the season will ask participants to fill out a short survey (2 minutes) about how the information affected their behavior. Flu Near You is completely free to use. Data from each group will be aggregated and visualized in an easy to interpret yet anonymized manner.

GoViral Participants will be able to track their own history throughout the season and as well, through the aggregate data, be able to see in real-time what infections and symptoms are going around right near them so they can take appropriate public health measures and understand when something might be abnormal.


How can PGP volunteers specially contribute or benefit from the GoViral project?

Influenza happens every year and no groups are exempt! There are still a lot of open questions including how many people actually get the flu or another type of respiratory infection. This platform enables us to learn more without relying on who goes in to see the doctor, as not all people do. As well, we believe this type of platform can help keep people healthy by providing them with very relevant information.

We think that PGP volunteers would be great participants because they are excited about and knowledgeable about the valuable information that individuals can hold in regards to our health. In the future it would be interesting to examine genetic makeup and predisposition for respiratory infections!

For the first year of the study we are only recruiting people in Massachusetts, but in subsequent years we can expand to other locations around the country.

Learn more and join here:

NOTE: Enrolled Harvard PGP participants may find more information about this and other studies inside the third party activities page.

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