Early evidence shows that the closure of bars, restaurants and other businesses to keep people away from places like New York City has slowed down fever, an early indicator of coronavirus, according to a new US fever and symptom analysis.
Data from health technology company Kinsa, which conducted an analysis with its digital thermometer, shows that people with the flu-like illness – atypical fever and symptoms – began to fall almost immediately after mandatory remote social measures were taken in some areas.
The company downloads fever readings from over a million used thermometers around the United States. It predicted flu and severe colds, which were often mistaken for the last winter.
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“When you close schools and businesses, you break the chain of infection,” said Kinsan CEO Inder Singh. “The data shows that it works, and the levels of fever clusters stabilized and decreased within a few days.”
For example, flu-related illness in Santa Clara County, California, has fallen by more than 60% since the March 17 shelter order. Meanwhile, the flu-like illness in Miami-Dade County has risen. The states and local governments of Northern California took earlier and more aggressive action than South Florida.
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Fever is often the first sign that someone has the coronavirus, which has spread rapidly for the most part, because symptoms can take days or even weeks. A few people have been tested, which makes the early signs of the virus even more important to trace, Singh said.
Kinsan’s information is available for public and scientific analysis and the company plans to submit it to a medical journal soon.
Former Food and Drug Administration and Maryland Health Commissioner Dr. Joshua Sharfstein called the research data from Kinsan “interesting results that support public health recommendations and should be independently reviewed.”
Kinsa board member Beth Seidenberg said the company had spent years trying to get the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to work with them. He is a private equity firm, Kleiner Perkins, who is an investor in Kinsa.
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“We have tried to get in touch with the CDC and BARDA and have not received a positive response from them,” Seidenberg said, also referring to the Health and Human Services Department, which is working on biomedical preparedness. “We think this is very important at the federal and state levels to indicate the location of hot spots.”
The CDC declined to comment on why it did not work with Kinsa, but said in a statement that it “appreciates the efforts of so many companies working through the private sector to address this new threat”.
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“We know that the scale of the federal and industrial partners is needed to fight the virus,” said the CDC.
The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services announced Monday that it will work with the CDC to better identify infected areas and prevent infections in hospitals and nursing homes.
Kinsa-type real-time information is critically important in the fight against viruses, like the one that causes COVID-19, said Nirav Shah, a former New York State health commissioner and Kinsan adviser.
“Viruses are evolving,” said Shah, now a senior researcher at the Center for Clinical Excellence at Stanford University. “These are 21st century infections and we need to use 21st century tools to fight them.”
Seidenberg called CMS’s use of government investigators to look for infected with a “19th century approach”.
In St. Augustine, Florida, Mayor John Regan thinks he made the right decision by banning alcohol service in restaurants from St. Patrick’s Day. At that time, there were only a handful of coronavirus cases in his area.
“There I was a good Irishman saying the party is over,” Regan said.
He also canceled the three-day Celtic festival, scheduled for the previous weekend, as well as the Lions Seafood Festival and Rotary Club’s Rock, Rhythm and Ribs Festival.
One local bar owner said he was going bankrupt and Regan wasn’t going to “make a difference by doing this in a small area.”
It is too early to say whether Regan’s actions contributed to the decline in flu-like illness, which began almost immediately in St. Johns County. St. Augustine has 14,000 people and the county has 250,000 people.
But Singh and Shah say the information is robust enough to inform decisions made by officials about whether or not to order companies to close for social distance.
“The question is, ‘Is it functional enough? “” Asked Singh. “I can’t tell you that, but I can tell you we’re smoothing the curve.”