The University of Newcastle, Australia

FluTracking survey reveals social distancing is working

Wednesday, 8 April 2020

FluTracking, the national online surveillance system for tracking symptoms of COVID-19 and flu in Australia and New Zealand has revealed some important insights into the response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Graphic of virus cells

In recent weekly surveys, FluTracking participants have recorded historically low respiratory and cold like symptoms. Coordinator of FluTracking, Dr Craig Dalton, said that social distancing appears to have decreased the transmission of many different types of respiratory virus – the rate of people with cough and fever has plummeted.

“The social distancing the community have taken up leads to less opportunities to transmit virus between people, so few people are infected and fewer people get sick. The rapid social distancing by the general community may have averted a public health disaster,” said Dr Craig Dalton.

“We mustn’t relax our vigilance, but these initial findings are early reassuring signs that social distancing is working. We have to continue with strong social distancing measures and aggressive case identification, contact tracing and isolation as well.”

Numbers of participants in the FluTracking survey has surged as people all over the country rally to contribute to the control of COVID19 in Australia. Over 23,000 new people have joined the survey in the last two weeks. Over 60,000 responses are being received in Australia each week and over 40,000 in New Zealand, with researchers expecting the numbers to pass 120,000 in the coming weeks.

The last two weeks survey results recorded 48 people who had received a positive test to COVID-19, of whom 13 (27%) reported a change in their taste or smell – a new emerging symptom of COVID-19. This is an important symptom that should alert doctors to the possibility of COVID-19 infection.

The Deputy Chief Health Officer of Australia is encouraging all Australians to join FluTracking to help track the spread of flu and COVID-19 at www.flutracking.net It only takes 20 seconds per week and participants receive a weekly link to a report and map of respiratory illness activity across Australia.


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