With the flu season now underway, researchers are using a nationwide online survey to better understand how many people seek medical advice when symptoms set in.
The national Flutracking program conducted by the University of Newcastle and Hunter New England Health has been running for five years and has 13,000 volunteers who record their flu-like symptoms weekly in a simple 15-second online survey.
This year is the first time volunteers will be asked to record if they have visited a doctor or phoned the National Health Advice Line to assist in the treatment of their condition.
“This will help us fill the gaps about where people seek help when they experience the flu,” lead researcher, Dr Craig Dalton, said.
“They will also be asked if the doctor’s diagnosis was based on observation only, or if they had a throat swab taken to confirm the presence of the virus to give a more accurate picture about the spread of flu.
“Influenza is potentially a life threatening illness. This is why Flutracking is such an important tool for health authorities to understand the impacts of influenza.
“In 2009 it helped to give health authorities a detailed analysis of the influenza pandemic,which hospital data showed did cause severe illness in some people. But according to Flutracking data the overall community illness rates were not higher than previous flu seasons during the pandemic.
“Large employers are now circulating Flutracking survey invitations to their employees to raise awareness of flu as part of wellness programs and we are hoping to enrol more than 15,000 flu-trackers this year.”
Flutracking has collected valuable public health data and in 2011, every state health jurisdiction is involved.
Dr Dalton is a Public Health Physician and a Conjoint Senior Lecturer in the University’s School of Medicine and Public Health, and is supported by the Hunter Medical Research Institute. HMRI is a partnership between the University of Newcastle, Hunter New England Health and the community.
For more information on the program visit www.flutracking.net.
For interviews and photo opportunities with Dr Craig Dalton contact the University of Newcastle Media and Public Relations Office on 02 4985 4316 or email firstname.lastname@example.org