Help SciFri Track The ‘Flu Near You’

SciFri and Flu Near You are teaming up to track the flu.

This is part of our collaboration with Flu Near You to track the flu over the 2018-2019 flu season. Want to help out? Sign up at Flu Near You, and text ‘flu’ to 917-242-4070 to get weekly reminders and tips.

Science Friday and Flu Near You are teaming up for an exciting new citizen science project to track this year’s flu season!

Help us track the flu!

  1. Register to participate at Flu Near You (don’t worry, it takes less than two minutes!)
  2. Each week, take 30 seconds to click a button to report how you are feeling
  3. If you’re afraid you’ll forget, text “flu” to 917-242-4070 to get a weekly reminder and tip!

What is this project?

Flu season has already begun, and we’re recruiting a national team of everyday citizens to report how they are feeling each week. The goal? With your help, we can build a real-time, national map of the rise and fall of influenza-like-illness in the United States.

By joining this project, you’ll help generate an accurate map of the prevalence of the flu in your area, which will help epidemiologists track and respond to the disease. As you participate, you’ll have opportunities to learn about prevention and symptoms of influenza, and even see when the flu is picking up in your area so you can take extra precautions.

Why help map the flu?

There are lots of reasons join in!

  • You’ll help build the largest national self-reported flu map database in the country
  • Your input will help your state and county track influenza, making it easier for health officials to respond to flu infections
  • Learn about the symptoms, causes, and effective prevention of the flu
  • Get answers to your flu-season questions in Science Friday’s Flu FAQ
  • Get exclusive invitations to live online and on-air expert Q&A sessions about the flu and flu vaccines
  • Be the first to know about flu-related news and the arrival of the flu season in your neighborhood

Doesn’t the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) monitor the flu already?

To monitor national and state level flu, the CDC uses a national influenza surveillance system that includes healthcare information (e.g. hospitalizations, doctor visits for influenza-like illness, lab specimens that tested positive for influenza, and influenza-associated deaths) to determine when, where, and what influenza viruses are circulating. Although this type of monitoring is important, it only captures illness among individuals who seek medical care. If you’ve ever gotten the flu, wallowed in misery with a box of tissues and Netflix without visiting the doctor, your flu infection was not reported.

I have a flu question that you didn’t answer here.

Leave a comment below and we can try to answer it for you!

Flu F.A.Q.

What is the flu and how does it spread?
The flu, short for “influenza,” is an infectious respiratory illness caused by the influenza virus with symptoms that affect the nose, airways, and lungs. Influenza is transmitted from between people primarily by tiny spit and snot droplets that are sprayed when someone with the flu sneezes, coughs, or talks—or, less commonly, from surfaces that an infected person has recently touched. The flu virus changes constantly, which is why you do not stay immune to the virus after you’ve recovered from an infection.

How long does it take to get sick, and how long are you infectious?
Symptoms start about two days after exposure to the influenza virus. An infected person can spread the virus starting a day before they have symptoms and up to a week after they first get sick.

How do I know if I have the flu?
Flu symptoms can include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills, fatigue and sometimes diarrhea or vomiting. Although symptoms may appear to be similar to the common cold, flu symptoms generally arrive much more quickly and are often (though not always) accompanied by a fever. The only way to be certain that the influenza virus is causing your symptoms is with a laboratory test given by your doctor.

How serious is the flu?
The flu can be quite serious. During the 2017-2018 flu season, the CDC reported there were a total of 79,000 flu-related deaths, 959,000 hospitalizations, and over 22.5 million medical visits caused by the flu. While the flu is most serious for small children and people over 64 years of age, the CDC estimates that over 30 million people ages 18-64 got sick with flu symptoms in the 2017-2018 flu season, and of those over 240,000 were hospitalized. The flu can also increase the risk of heart attack six-fold in older adults. Yuck.

How can I prevent the flu?
The best way to avoid getting the flu is to get a flu shot.  Getting a flu shot not only means you’ll be less likely to get the flu, it also means if you do get the flu anyway, you’ll have fewer days of missed work and be less likely to have to go to the doctor or be hospitalized because of the flu.  Flu shots have been shown to be safe and effective at reducing symptoms and hospitalizations due to respiratory illness for pretty much everyone, including kids in elementary schoolpregnant moms as well as the children they later give birth to, people over 65, little kids between 6 months and 6 yearspeople who work in offices, and healthcare workers (whose elderly patients benefit from vaccinated nurses).  And while hand-washing and wearing a medical mask will reduce your risk of getting the flu, it’s much less effective than getting a flu shot.

Meet the Writer

About Ariel Zych

Ariel Zych is Science Friday’s education director. She is a former teacher and scientist who spends her free time making food, watching arthropods, and being outside.

  • Rishat


    A Muslim 5 times a day makes ablution in ice water 3 times from the tap and 2 times in ice artesian water. Because of the disease, diabetes insipidus I drink from 3 to 5 liters of water per day. . Eating and drinking are healthy. Mom – retired, cook by profession. I eat milk porridge every day and drink 100% coffee every day. We buy coffee in a specialty store. I eat or drink dairy products almost every day. Since childhood, I have not worked as persons of disability group 2. I sleep 8 hours. Calm down. Because of 3 rare internal incurable diseases I don’t drink, I don’t smoke .. My innate and acquired immunity is very strong because of a healthy lifestyle. Acquired immunity is the body’s ability to neutralize foreign and potentially dangerous microorganisms (or toxin molecules) that have already been swallowed. Judging by my 3 immunograms (special blood test), I can beat any flu virus. . Do I have a strong immune system? And now imagine what kind of immunity I will have if I drink juice for the place of water. For 2 and 3 diseases, any sport is contraindicated for me and because of these diseases I can die at any time. There is an experimental treatment of my illnesses that relieve symptoms. But the treatment is too expensive. What kind of immunity would I have if I played sports 5 times a day I would bathe in ice-cold artesian water. Made 3 immunograms (special blood test) for free. I asked for the immunogram on my own, 2 immunogram on the advice of a local immunologist, and I myself asked for an immunogram, but they immediately agreed that they wondered why I had such high rates. a local immunologist recorded lymphocytosis as a result of t-cell activity.1 The immunogram of lymphocytes is 52%. This analysis was done at the end of August 2017. The lymphocyte immunogram of 46% was made 20 days after the trip to the sanatorium in 2017. 3 lymphocyte immunogram 48%. I did it at the end of March 2018. But the truth was, I got sick with the flu then, but I only got sick for 3 days. The only symptoms were cough and high fever of 39 degrees. The day after recovery, he made an immunogram. t helpers exceeding the norm by almost 2 times. In the 1st and 2nd immunogram the picture is the same. In early November 2018, he underwent a complete blood count of lymphocytes 47%. During 2016 and to this day, I once had the flu and then 3 days. these 2 years did not do vaccinations. I ask you to conduct additional research immunograms

  • Rishat

    The influenza virus has shown resistance to a promising new drug that has been developed for widespread use, including in an influenza pandemic, researchers in the UK said.

    Previous clinical trials and laboratory tests of the drug, favipiravir, did not produce resistant influenza viruses, a team from Imperial College London, in collaboration with Public Health England, wrote. However, these latest laboratory results suggest that there is a universal mechanism of resistance to favipiravir, the researchers said.

  • g

    Links not working to sign up! Clicking and nothing happens!

    • JamesW1

      Same here

    • F. Halbs

      Same issue, I wrote on their facebook site but was referred to an email. They need to be more proactive. They’ll lose a large demographic with site issues like this. It’s unfortunate.

    • Hi there! We’re working on the tech issue as we speak and hope to be back in business ASAP. In the meantime, you can text “flu” to 917-242-4070 to get a weekly reminder and tip, and stay up to speed with the project! Thanks!

      • If we text “flu” to the number, does that automatically register us? The “Join” page wants more info.

        • It won’t, but we will let you know via that number when the form is fully working. However, the form does work on desktop web browsers, so we’d recommend giving that a shot. Apologies!

          • Thanks. Although I was trying to register on my laptop, not through my phone. I’m registered for texts, so I’ll wait to get the notification that the form is operational.

            Thanks again.

    • Evilbob_dA

      lol. Seems like the “Join” button is broken and everyone is experiencing the same issue.

      Alternatively, the “Join” button is actually working but is using Javascript or some other code that Chrome, Firefox, or a commonly used browser has blocked for security reasons.

  • Brandy

    As a recipient of a kidney transplant (>1year) I want to stress the importance of the flu shot. Vaccines can be less effective in those who are immunocompromised and may only work at 34% efficiency (according to nih). If you want to contribute to the wellness of your community, do so through being vaccinated to prevent the spread of infections like the flu.

  • Sandra

    Yeah, I couldn’t get it to accept it either. Also, It asks for birth date/year and when you put it the way it asks, it switches and assumes an entirely different birth date. Have to use the arrow and go back to the year you were born first, then choose the month. That’s not how it shows the date in the original field.

    • Hi Sandy! Apologies for the tech issues. We’re working on it as we speak. In the meantime, you can text “flu” to 917-242-4070 to get a weekly reminder and tip, and stay up to speed with the project! Thanks for joining in!

  • Hollis Rose

    Tried to join but alas… nada. Likely on systems overload b|c of all of us. I’ll keep the page open and try again later.

    • Hi Hollis! We’re working on the tech issue as we speak. In the meantime, you can text “flu” to 917-242-4070 to get a weekly reminder and tip, and stay up to speed with the project! Thanks for joining in on the project!

  • Brandie

    I filled out the registration, but when I click the join button, nothing happens. Maybe the system is overwhelmed?

    • Hi Brandie! We’re working on the tech issue as we speak. In the meantime, you can text “flu” to 917-242-4070 to get a weekly reminder and tip, and stay up to speed with the project! Thanks for joining!

      • Pat Kight

        While I was unable to complete registration in my preferred browser (Mozilla SeaMonkey), switching to Chrome worked fine for me (at around 2:50 pm Pacific Time).

  • Janet

    Great project!

    Healthy people should get the influenza vaccine to help protect people who are at greater risk.

    The sign up seems frozen. I hope that means there are a huge number of listeners trying to sign up.

  • Linda B. Pullen

    I’m hoping that this tech glitch will be fixed soon. I also just heard about this on air and decided to register. Nothing happened. I will go ahead and text to the number to get weekly info.

  • victoria rhodes

    the only way to know if its the flu, and covered by the flu shot, is if there is a lab test to determine influenza. the only problem with reporting flu like symptoms is it will totally blow out of proportion the actual flu rates. the flu shot doesn’t cover anything but the current year virus. it does not cover flu like symptoms. for your tracking to be accurate, you need to have it laboratory confirmed. otherwise its junk science

  • RuthAlice Anderson

    I am recovering from the flu thanks to doctor prescribing Tamiflu right away, but dang, I got the flu shot in September. One problem, in selecting symptoms at Flu Near You, I was only allowed to choose one. If I selected one, then the other deselected.

  • About Ready to Give Up

    Working on the tech issue as we speak? . . . It’s still not working this morning. 🙁

    • Hi there! We’re hearing that the join button on mobile web browsers isn’t working. We’re working on getting this fixed ASAP. We recommend signing up via Chrome on your desktop. Thanks!

  • Jim

    I agree, “join” not working. Also, very hard to decipher how to enter my birth month/year. The default choices are confusing. Specifically, mine are 03/1946, but that doesn’t come up as a “click” choice.

    • Cynthia Wilber

      Select the year first. Then the selection for month will come up. (Still not working at 11AM EST though)

  • Aopisa

    Join still not working on iPhone mobile safari and chrome. Not working on MacOS on Safari.

    • Hi there! We’re hearing that the join button on mobile web browsers isn’t working. We recommend signing up via Chrome on your desktop. We’re working on getting this fixed ASAP. Thanks!

  • Warren B.

    I was able to register and report that I have had the flu shot. I could not find a way to go back and verify that my wife also had the shot.

  • Bob Follansbee

    Also not able to sign up!

    • Hi Bob! We’re hearing that the join button on mobile web browsers isn’t working, but it should work when you sign up on your desktop. We’re working on getting this fixed ASAP. In the meantime, you can text “flu” to 917-242-4070 to get a weekly reminder and tip, and stay up to speed with the project! Thanks!

  • Nancy Rigler

    Two days later and “join” button is still not working. I use Safari as my browser. 🙁

  • Jean Duval

    Is this tracking tool just for U.S. citizens or can Canadians join in too?

    • Hi Jean! Unfortunately, it’s only set up to process U.S. zip codes at the moment. But Flu Near You is working toward including Canada in the future.

  • About Ready to Give Up

    This is not just a mobile web browser issue, contrary to an email I received this morning from Science Friday. I still am unable to join, and I am (and have been) attempting to do so from my desktop. Hard to believe this isn’t fixed by now.

  • birdwonk

    “However, the form does work on desktop web browsers, so we’d recommend giving that a shot. Apologies!” I’m using Safari on a Mac laptop and can’t register. As a biologist, I want to participate!

    • Hi there! Flu Near You just fixed the form and it should work on Safari on mobile and desktop devices. Go ahead and try it out! Thanks for you patience.

  • Joy G. Hoover

    Suggestions for those of us that are unable to take the vaccine due to serious reactions to it in the past? Please give any advice that may of helped you if you are one of us.
    So far, I know washing hands a lot is a must, I also carry hand sanitizer and wear a mask in public. I use lysol spray daily and I spray everything from door knobs to the entry foyer in to the apartment building I live in. I also santize all had rails on the steps daily and wash my hands as soon as I walk into my apartment and spray my apartment again with lysol. I also tell all friends and family if they are ill please dont come visit me.

    I am trying my best to stop flu in its tracks but am I doing enough?

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