Virginia Tech partners with AccuWeather to share flu outlook

WASHINGTON — A forecasting tool developed at Virginia Tech could warn people weeks before the flu hits their area, giving them time to get that flu-shot or to take precautions to avoid getting sick.

The Biocomplexity Institute of Virginia Tech partnered with AccuWeather, and beginning in March the global weather forecasting service will also forecast flu outbreaks with the use of the EpiCaster tool, which predicts when the flu will hit an area and how hard it will hit.

Originally developed to help track the 2014 Ebola outbreak in West Africa, the tool is currently being used by many state and local governments in the U.S. as well as federal agencies.

Zane Reynolds is a Virginia Tech software architect and project manager for EpiCaster. He is happy that the public now will have access to the information, which he said will help Americans make better decisions about their health.

“You’ll be able to look at your local area and see what’s the forecasted flu activity,” Reynolds said.

If people know a flu outbreak is heading their way, they can prepare better — like not sending their sick child to school or emphasizing hand-washing — which could mean fewer cases of the flu.

“So you’ll be able to see what’s going on right now, what’s the activity level like. We’re seeing increased levels in the South, in the southern states. And then you’ll be able to see what’s predicted over the next month.”

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