SEATTLE—Last flu season, the Seattle region experienced two waves of flu, causing hospitalizations and severe illness for thousands of residents. This year, the Seattle Flu Study (SFS) is inviting the local Seattle community to join them in finding new ways to protect people from future outbreaks. The SFS is also providing tools and tips on how to keep healthy, and what to do if a person thinks they might have the flu.
The Seattle Flu Study is a collaborative effort by the Brotman Baty Institute, UW Medicine, the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and Seattle Children’s to find out how flu outbreaks can be better detected, monitored and controlled.
The study is starting its second year, and learning how flu enters and spreads in a community. The study collects nasal swabs from adults and children with colds or other illnesses, tests them for flu and other germs, gives participants their results, and maps how flu moves through the community.
The SFS is currently recruiting people who live or work in the city of Seattle. Participants can enroll themselves and their families either when they are healthy, or when they have cold or flu-like symptoms. There are many ways to sign up and take part in the study. To learn more, community members can visit seattleflu.org or visit study kiosks in person in locations across the city.
“The next frontier in flu prevention is the ability to accurately predict an outbreak and quickly take action to stop its spread,” said Dr. Helen Chu, associate professor of medicine at the University of Washington School of Medicine and lead clinician for the Seattle Flu Study. “Through the study, we hope to find new ways to identify when flu arrives in a community and develop tools to protect people before it becomes widespread.”
As the SFS team reaches out to recruit for the study, they also want to make sure that community members have tools and information to fight the flu this season. The SFS website has tips and information about preventing the flu. People can also sign up for email updates on all things flu in Seattle. The study has also added a new interactive map that shows the presence of flu at the neighborhood level for the entire city of Seattle.
The study team hopes to build on what it learned last year, and take next steps in finding new ways to prevent outbreaks.
“This year, we’re engaging more directly with the Seattle community by providing near real-time on flu circulation throughout the city, as well as returning results directly to participants. We’re thinking of this as a collaboration for citizen science with the entire Seattle community,” added Dr. Trevor Bedford, lead data scientist for the Seattle Flu Study.