MUSC tool checks flu status online

The main way the flu spreads is through contact from person to person. Now, the Medical University of South Carolina is trying to catch the flu from spreading faster with a new way for a person to check if he or she has the virus before they even leave his or her house. MUSC Dr. Larry Blumenthal is a creator of the flu symptom evaluator.
“Certain features of the flu, like abrupt onset of fever, people can often can tell you to the minute when they got sick, whereas the common cold tends to creep up on you over a few days. So, the purpose of the evaluation tool is to help people identify when they might have the flu, as well as letting them know when they might need to seek medical attention, and also to hopefully letting people know when to stay home to keep them from affecting others,” says Blumenthal.
Here’s how it works: “A person will answer several questions about their symptoms and based upon known features of the flu, it will give them an answer as to the likelihood of whether or not they have the flu versus some other type of viral illness,” says Blumenthal.
Dr. Blumenthal says he made the evaluator a little more age specific. “I chose the young adult age group. Actually, it would apply even all the way down to adolescents, but that’s not an age group I deal with a lot. We know that young persons and elderly persons might not always have the classic symptoms of the flu. So, this is more for an adolescent group on through older adults,” says Blumenthal.
As for the benefits of using the online tool rather than going to the doctor first: “So they could get information without having to wait for the doctor to call them back. Also, if they are a young healthy person they might be fine with the therapy and it might not be necessary that they spend the money to go see a doctor or seek out a diagnostic opinion when the best therapy might be to just stay home,” says Blumenthal.
The evaluation instrument was tested and peer evaluated for accuracy and reliability. Doctors hope it will evolve as the influenza and H1N1 viruses increase.
To use the evaluator log on to http://www.musc.edu/h1n1