6 Ways Tech is Taking on Cold and Flu Season

It doesn't have to be this way.

Sneeze No More

Sure, it’s the most wonderful time of the year. It’s also cold and flu season. But the days of sneezing and sniffling could soon be over.

Check out the six ways tech is tackling your least favorite season’s greetings.

It’s pharmacology’s holy grail. “Scientists on the verge of developing cure for common cold,” The Independent reported in November. The SynGEM nasal spray is hoped to vaccinate users against the respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), one of the three major strains of the cold virus, infecting an estimated 64 million people annually. Human trials have just begun.

Don’t believe the hype just yet. In 2010, the very same Independent proclaimed, “A cure for the common cold may finally be achieved,” with clinical trials slated to start “within two to five years.” So far… nothing.

Or perhaps the answer lies in supercomputing. Researchers at IBM have developed a macromolecule that could target diverse viruses such as influenza, Zika, Ebola, and dengue fever. IBM Watson’s cognitive computing tools will be used to help bring the research to market.

watson flu cold

Big Data
Big data’s ability to track and limit the outbreak of the flu has a spotty history. In 2008 Google launched Flu Trends, believing they could accurately track its spread during peak flu season. It didn’t work. As Wired reported, “…GFT failed – and failed spectacularly – missing at the peak of the 2013 flu season by 140 percent.”

All is not lost, however. A new study from Boston Children’s Hospital suggests that “cloud-based data from electronic health records can be used to pick up cases of influenza in real time, at least one week ahead of CDC reporting…”

While your iPhone won’t actually stop you from getting sick, it can help you watch in horror as flu outbreaks march slowly, but steadily, toward your home. The Center for Disease Control’s FluView Influenza-Like Illness Activity (they might want to work on the name) allows users to track outbreaks based on outpatient information.

fluview app

If you’re stuck in a crowded train or subway everyday, odds are good that you’re going to be exposed to some nasty stuff. That’s where The Germinator Transit Jacket comes in. Featuring a high collar with antimicrobial liner and fold-out cuffs for grabbing poles, it’s a commuter’s best defense – unfortunately it’s also out of stock.

germinator jacket

In September, researchers revealed they were able to watch the influenza virus infect a cell in real-time, a big leap from the indirect methods of observation they had to rely on in the past. Engadget reports, “… using multiphoton microscopy in tandem with a laser and fluorescence, the team monitored influenza virus in a mouse’s trachea (where the translucency made imaging possible) through the infection and immune system response.”


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