The Flu! project is all about trying to create a new and exciting method of Flu surveillance. When epidemiologists talk about surveillance, they mean the continuous collection, analysis and interpretation of data that be used to prevent and control diseases. This tells us how much Flu there is in the community and where it is so we can do something about it.
However, a bit like the tip of an iceberg, the people who go to see their GP or end up in hospital are only a small part of the bigger picture. For every person that does end up seeing a doctor there are many more at home, feeling unwell but not so sick they need to seek medical help. This not only means our current surveillance misses the majority of Flu cases but that an outbreak is more difficult to detect in its early stages.
That’s where Decipher my data! comes in. When students get Flu they tend not to go to school and we think this could provide us with a larger sample than current surveillance methods. Having a larger sample size makes it easier to detect an increase in levels of Flu during the early stages of an outbreak.
One of the problems we might find by using the school absence data is that Flu isn’t the only thing that causes students to become ill and take time off school. When analysing the results we’ll carry out some careful analysis and interpretation to find out how much our results are affected by this problem. What we do know is that if it works, the results could have real benefits for society so we’ve got to give it a go!