Three Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center (TTUHSC) School of Medicine students need the public’s input for a COVID-19 epidemiology study. The investigation involves analyzing data collected from a symptom reporting app.
The COVID Symptom Tracker asks contributors to answer a few simple questions about themselves and their current health, then check-in every day to say whether they’re feeling fine or have noticed any new symptoms. Anyone can take part by downloading the free COVID Symptom Tracker app on iOS from the Apple App store or Android from the Google Play store through covid.joinzoe.com.
“Unfortunately, the app has the lowest rate of usage in the West Texas area compared to the rest of the state,” says Ganesh Maniam, a fourth-year medical student at TTUHSC in Amarillo. “In order for us to get a more robust measurement of COVID-19’s impact here, we really hope more people will use the app to record their experiences with the disease.”
Maniam said the students are still working on study design and specifics, but they plan to compare the data from the app regarding exposure and symptomatology to local COVID-19 data from the City of Amarillo Department of Public Health. The project officially kicks off in January, but data analysis can start as soon as there are enough app users in West Texas.
“Besides comparing data to local experience, we are also interested to see if there are certain trends in demographic information like age, gender, tobacco use and pre-existing conditions here in West Texas,” Maniam says. “This was the app that discovered that loss of taste or smell is an early symptom of COVID-19 disease. Even after I graduate, the information from this project will allow researchers to help us if we ever find ourselves in another pandemic in the future. We came together for this project because we want to help out in this pandemic however we can.”
Maniam is joined by Connor Barry and Avery Bramnik in conducting the study. The local faculty mentor for the students’ project is Theresa Byrd, DrPH, the chair of the Department of Public Health at TTUHSC.