Scientists from Scripps Research have determined that wearable devices could potentially help public health officials determine the locations of future COVID-19 outbreaks in a bid to contain the spread of the virus.

Data from wearable devices, like Apple Watches and Fitbits for instance, that track heart rate, steps taken and sleep patterns — all of which are altered when the wearer becomes ill — combined with the wearer’s self-reported symptoms, could potentially better predict which people will test positive for COVID-19, according to researchers.

To determine this, the researchers conducted a study of roughly 30,000 participants who volunteered data from their wearable devices while also reporting their symptoms any time they did not feel well. Over a span of months, around 3,800 of those participants reported having symptoms that ranged from stomach aches and coughing to difficulty breathing and loss of sense of smell or taste — all of which are COVID-19 symptoms. Eventually, 333 of those participants were tested with 54 testing positive for COVID-19 while 279 tested negative.

According to the Scripps scientists, the data used together could potentially help identify the scope and spread of the virus and help officials identify communities that would benefit from interventions such as increased testing and other efforts to slow the spread of the virus.

The study appears in the journal Nature Medicine.

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