Fitbit and other wearable devices typically linked to exercise are being studied as ways to identify people who are potentially infected with COVID-19 before symptoms appear, when they can unknowingly spread the disease.
Changes in heart rate, respiratory rate, and other biometrics measured constantly by the devices may flag the early stages of virus infection, so an otherwise healthy-looking person knows to self-isolate and seek a COVID-19 diagnostic test, researchers say.
“When you get ill, even before you know it, your body starts changing, your heart rate goes up,” said Professor Michael Snyder of Stanford University School of Medicine.
Stanford researchers are among several groups examining whether wearable fitness devices such as the Fitbit or Apple Watch can provide an early warning. Snyder’s team enrolled 5,000 people in the study and studied historical smartwatch data from 31 users who tested positive for COVID-19.
Of those 31, all of their data indicated infection before symptoms appeared. Wearable devices picked up the signals of infection early – before symptoms appeared – in an average of three days.
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