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Researchers Use Wireless To Study Flu Outbreaks

by Tom Moccia | December 28, 2010December 28, 2010 6:00 pm PST

Every year I head to my doctor’s office and get my flu sho in hopes that I will avoid falling ill, and every year the flu shot itself gets me sick. In essence, I get horrendous body aches and feel fatigued for a day or two. I often wonder if this is worth the hassle and if this flu shot will circumvent a more serious case of the flu. Besides, who’s to say if I didn’t get the flu shot I would still get sick? Frankly, I think its more about understanding how the flu virus spreads and avoiding those situations.

Well, to that end, scientists have confirmed what doctors and nurses have been preaching for years. When we are talking infectious viruses like the telosbflu, human beings are pretty much at their mercy. Researchers at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California have confirmed this through a study that implemented wireless sensors of all things.

Scientists attached IEEE 802.15.4 sensors to an entire high school population for one day, and modeled what they bill, the “human contact network.” The wireless devices tracked how often students and faculty came within range of other individuals, to where infections can spread during the height of flu season.

Every student, teacher and staff member carried a small TelosB device about the size of a credit card, which sent and received signals every twenty seconds. According to the Stanford report, “the devices logged more than 760,000 incidents when two people were within ten feet of each other, roughly the maximum distance that a disease can be transmitted through a cough or a sneeze.” Researchers attempted to determine if infections followed any certain criteria, such as how social an individual was or what activities they participated in, as well as modeling infection rates if certain percentages of the population had been vaccinated.

The results showed that none of the external circumstances mattered, and that as long as the proximity rule of ten feet was followed that infections continued to spread. Viruses don’t know the reasons for proximity, nor do they distinguish what kind of activities students are engaging in such as chatting in home room or getting ready for the big game in the locker room.

So, back to the question posed earlier: Does a flu shot prevent you from getting a major case of the flu? I really can’t say for sure, but based on this research it can’t hurt, as the likelihood of you being infected when you come within close proximity of an infected person seems high. I’ll take two days of aches to avoid a week of misery with the full fledged flu.

What are your thoughts on flu shots and have you had any adverse reactions? I look forward to the discussion to follow.


Tom Moccia

Tom Moccia is a native of Stamford, Connecticut and moved his family west in 2000 and now calls Stockton, California home with his wife and two...

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