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SLU Researchers Develop App to Track COVID-19 Symptoms

As the COVID-19 pandemic spread across the world, researchers pondered the spread of the disease and what the risks of individual and community transmission rates were in various locations. 

To address this, SLU researchers Enbal Shacham, Ph.D., a professor of behavioral science and health education and associate director of the SLU Geospatial Institute (GeoSLU); Flavio Esposito, Ph.D., assistant professor of computer science; and Roberto Coral, a research assistant in computer science, developed an app to monitor real-time symptoms and the location of symptomatic individuals.

Enbal Shacham
Enbal Shacham, Ph.D. SLU file photo 

The app helps to track the spread of COVID-19 at an individual level and enables contact tracing. Users can go onto the app multiple times a day to track if they are experiencing any recognized symptom for COVID-19.

Shacham has long been interested in using geospatial technology to grow, inform and improve public health. COVID-19 is an example of how location drives health and health outcomes.

“Public health is related to everything, and location determines opportunity and outcomes,” said Shacham. “We can recognize in real-time when people are feeling sick, where they are sick, and how we can get them resources as quickly as possible.”

The app was first designed for airport staff who may be routinely exposed to COVID-19, but that changed when the crisis began to spread among communities.

Flavio Esposito
Flavio Esposito, Ph.D. SLU file photo.

With support from the SLU Research Institute’s Rapid Response COVID-19 Seed Fund, the team broadened the scope of their project to focus on a wider population and create an app that could be a crucial resource for businesses, schools, governments and other organizations looking to create a comfortable and safe environment. 

“The Seed Fund allowed us to start focusing on our efforts and develop a truly useful app,” said Shacham.

The app is now available to everyone. Currently, the team is trying to promote the app to employers for their employees to use the app as they start returning to their workplaces. With cases once again rising, there is a greater responsibility to create a safe place for employees and customers alike. 

While the team feels the app is a step in the right direction, Shacham emphasizes that more efforts to use available data be taken to inform better public health. 

“We cannot say this one app is going to solve all of our problems, but rather, this app in concert with other data points should support systems that should be working together,” Shacham said.

More information on efforts at SLU to track COVID-19 is available on the tracking page

This is a part of a series of stories from the Office of the Vice President for Research highlighting SLU’s Rapid Response COVID-19 Seed Fund Program. Claire Creedon/Office of the Vice President for Research.