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Early illness detection is goal for smart thermometer program at University School

Brandon Paykamian • Updated Nov 30, 2017 at 7:22 PM

Early detection of the flu is an important part of keeping schools healthy, and one San Francisco-based company will help Johnson City’s University School do just that. 

Kinsa, a company that produces “smart thermometers” that assist in early detection of illnesses like the flu, will provide the school and parents with a thermometer and a smartphone application that allows users to connect the thermometer to their phones and check to see which illnesses are most prevalent.

In the middle of flu season, tools such as the Kinsa Smart Thermometer and Smart Health Tracking App, which will be provided as part of the company’s FLUency program, could play an important role in giving students proper treatment. 

“It allows the nurses in the school and parents to see how many people have illnesses like strep or flu, which helps the school community stay healthy by knowing what’s going around and what to do about it,” spokeswoman Kristen Marion said.

Depending on the reading, the app also tells parents what to do next and alerts users when a fever and symptoms warrant a visit to the doctor.

University School, a K-12 school, was one of three schools in Tennessee and 200 schools nationally to be accepted into the free FLUency program.

The thermometers, which usually cost about $20, should be provided to parents at the school by January, according to Marion. As part of the program, Lysol also will provide disinfectant products to help prevent viral and bacterial infections. 

The program and the smart thermometer technology will require parental input to be utilized effectively, according to Nita Nehru, Kinsa’s marketing manager. 

“There’s several things that go into the process of choosing which school gets the free program. We received 4,000 applications for only 200 spots, and what we looked for was a committed, active person on the ground — like a school nurse, principal or parent. We want people who will champion this program and help spearhead it,” she said. “Next, we look for an active, engaged parent population.”

Christen Minnick, director of the Washington County Health Department, said tools like the FLUency program could be very useful for early detection of the flu in schools. Though she said larger cities like Nashville often see higher flu rates before cities like Johnson City, Minnick said gathering as much data as possible and staying up to date on the numbers is always important for parents. 

“We typically see an increase in areas with higher populations first,” she said. “As with every other year, we have an increase in flu cases starting in October, which can last until March and April depending on the severity of it.

“The earlier we can detect that, the more information we will be able to provide to the (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) to get out to the public.”

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