Text message platform beats health department in identifying COVID-19 spike
COVIDIQ, a text messaging platform that collects self-reported COVID-19 symptoms, successfully identified a Florida region’s spike in COVID-19 cases weeks before it was reported by the Florida Department of Health, researchers reported.
“COVIDIQ is a group of volunteers from across the United States, Canada and China who got together in the spring to create a way to determine presumptive cases of COVID-19 [after] we noticed there was a delay in state and local reporting and so outbreaks were being reported retrospectively instead of being ahead of the curve,” Suzanne Templer, DO, associate professor of medicine at the University of Pittsburgh, told Healio. “Dr. Eran Magen and Dr. Naheed Vora created a text message system to ask participants if they had recently experienced any signs or symptoms consistent with SARS-CoV-2 infection.”
According to the study, once individuals agreed to participate, they were asked to answer basic demographic questions and were then surveyed via text message on a weekly or biweekly basis regarding symptoms. The list of symptoms included none, temperature higher than 99.6°F, cough, shortness of breath, headache, fatigue, loss of appetite, loss of sense of smell or taste, diarrhea, body ache, sore throat and/or chills.
Symptoms were categorized as major or minor. Any participant with two major, one major or two minor, or three minor symptoms were considered a presumptive positive case.
Overall, 1,185 participants enrolled from the three Florida counties in and around Jacksonville. According to Templer, Duval county had 869 users and 104 presumptive cases identified by the text messaging program, St. John’s county had 206 users with 19 presumptive cases and Clay county had 110 users with 18 suspected cases. After assessing these data, the researchers confirmed that COVIDQ identified a spike in COVID-19 cases in Florida a full 2 weeks before it was reported by the Florida Department of Health and Johns Hopkins University.
“We hope that COVIDIQ increases public awareness of new potential hot spots to help public health officials, business owners, school systems, parents and others know how [people in] their zip code [are] faring so they can make proactive decisions in terms of what activities they will engage in and, hopefully, prevent further outbreaks,” Templer said. “We hope public health officials can use [these] data to determine where to ramp up efforts and resources going forward.”