Fitbit Fitness wearables detect Covid-19 before symptoms onset

CAPE TOWN – Fitbit has announced some interesting findings from their Fitbit Covid-19 study launched in May which aimed build an algorithm to detect Covid-19 before symptoms onset.

The study enrolled more than 100 000 Fitbit users across the US and Canada with over 1 000 positive cases of Covid-19 reported with Fitbit Director of Research Conor Heneghan publishing their findings on the Fitbit blog on Wednesday and with the company making all their findings publicly available acknowledging the importance of information on Covid-19 during these trying times.

“This study presents an exciting opportunity to see how the power of the Fitbit community will help us better understand this new and complex disease,” said Heneghan, “Based on the findings of our study, we can detect nearly 50 percent of Covid-19 cases one day before participants reported the onset of symptoms with 70 percent specificity.”

These findings are especially important as it helps reduce the spread of Covid-19 significantly by warning users before they realise they have symptoms helping them get care or isolate sooner.

“Our study also reinforces that breathing rate, resting heart rate and heart rate variability (HRV) are all useful metrics for indicating onset of illness and are best tracked at night, when the body is at rest. Our research shows that HRV, which is the beat-to-beat variation of the heart, often decreases in people who are exhibiting symptoms of illness, while resting heart rate and breathing rate are often elevated. In some cases, those metrics begin to signal changes nearly a week before participants reported symptoms. ”

With other findings includes:

  • On average, heart rate variability hits its lowest point the day after symptoms are reported
  • Increases in resting heart rate normalise, on average, at least 5–7 days after the start of symptoms
  • Breathing rate peaks typically on day 2 of symptoms, but there is a slight elevation, on average, for up to 3 weeks after symptoms start

The reports gave insight into symptoms too with researchers finding that the most common symptom reported by participants were fatigue with 72 percent, followed by heaches with 65 percent then body aches 63 percent. 60 percent of the participants also reported a decrease in taste and smell and 59 percent had a cough. The study found that only 55 percent of participants suffered from fevers which may indicate temperature screening alone, may not be enough to identify those infected.

“It’s clear that our bodies start to signal impacts from the disease before more noticeable symptoms appear. With these initial signals identified, we’ll continue our work in developing an algorithm to detect diseases like COVID-19 and focus on expanded research in a real-world environment,” said Conor Heneghan.

Early detection is critical during the pandemic with Fitbit aiming to provide such information to their users as soon as they can with further developments underway.

 

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