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New website tracks illnesses through social media

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Posted: Tuesday, November 12, 2013 10:15 pm

With sniffling, sneezing, coughing and hocking season here at Northwest, it can be unsettling for students to arrive in their lecture hall sitting next to dozens of other runny noses.

In a campus world where getting sick can be catastrophic to class attendance, one website may just help Northwest students know what to expect with a forecast of what sickness is floating around in any area code; and it is all thanks to social media updates.

Sickweather.com gathers information from social media outlets like Facebook and Twitter to compile a forecast of what kinds of sicknesses are being harped about online in any given area code. The website then displays the social media posts on an interactive map, showing where the illnesses are occuring.

Although the website is still in its beta stage, a mobile app is planned for release in the coming months that would allow users to see where exactly the users who posted their cases of sickness are and avoid them if possible. For now though, students should be warned. Cough, fever and allergies appeared in Sickweather’s forecast for the Maryville area Tuesday.

Northwest sophomore Genevra Spinnato recently found out about the Sickweather service but was not quite convinced.

“I’ve never gone to the Wellness Center but I do get sick a lot from people; especially around this time of the year," Spinnato said. "Whenever the weather changes back and forth I catch a lot more colds from people. It’s a little confusing as to what exactly this app could be used for, though. I don’t know if I would ever use it.”

While it could be convenient for students to check the website for what illnesses are in the area, a visit to the campus Wellness Center is probably the best bet for staying healthy this flu season. Clinical Supervisor at the Northwest Wellness Center Judy Frueh said that there is still a variety of illnesses in students observed on campus.

“Sore throats and upper respiratory infections are going around. A few with the flu,” Frueh said. "The Wellness Center monitors with the area Health Department once a week to keep tabs on the spread of infections like the flu and strep throat."

Students can make an appointment by calling the center at (660) 562-1348 or online by visiting www.wellness.nwmissouri.edu. Flu shots are free for students and walk-ins are available from 1:30-2:30 every Friday except for the Friday following Thanksgiving.

If students can’t stop in for a check-up, there are still some steps they can take to avoid getting sick this season. Frueh said some of the most important actions students can take are eating healthy, getting plenty of sleep, avoiding contact with sick people and washing hands frequently.

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