A research team from the University of Arizona's Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health has developed a smartphone app that helps track and detect Zika virus outbreaks and symptoms. Kidenga is available for free on iOS and Android devices.
Kidenga as "a community-based disease detection system" helps public health investigators track "day-biting mosquito populations within a community" and to identify people who harbor symptoms of the virus, UANews reports. Zika's symptoms are usually mild, but the most common are fever, red eyes, joint pain, and rash. Headaches and muscle pain can also occur, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Kidenga users are provided with country-level confirmed case information, educational materials and the latest news on mosquito activity. The app can be used by all residents of the United States and Canada aged 13 years old and above.
The researchers are also searching for "citizen-scientists" who will use Kidenga to collect data about the Aedes aegypti mosquito, the culprit behind the transmission of Zika and other mosquito-borne illnesses such as dengue and chikungunya. Zika can be transmitted via sexual contact and blood transfusions, CDC noted.
Zika can also be passed on by a pregnant woman to the unborn child in her womb. Babies affected with Zika develop microcephaly, hearing loss, eye damage and developmental delays.
Kidenga will ask users once a week to report mosquito activity and symptoms nearby their area. Users of the app can check out other user reports within their ZIP code and get the most up-to-date news about the illnesses brought on by the Aedes mosquito. Kidenga also teaches users on how to protect themselves and their community against mosquito bites and the diseases transmitted by the insects.
Kacey Ernst, an infectious disease epidemiologist at the College of Public Health, said that the app's use of ZIP codes will determine which areas have the uptick of suspicious symptoms that may indicate Zika, dengue, or chikungunya. Kidenga can jumpstart early intervention and prevent mosquito-borne illnesses from spreading further.
Kidenga is highly focused on states that have high Aedes mosquito populations such as Florida and Texas. Both of the states have a humid subtropical climate, where mosquito populations thrive in.
According to Ernst, controlling Aedes mosquito populations and reducing its virus transmission are challenging. Traditional surveillance of mosquito-borne illnesses requires routine tracking and testing of people and reporting the cases to health departments.
This way is the most valid to determine cases, but it can miss some people because Zika symptoms don't appear most of the time. There are times when infected individuals have mild symptoms and are unaware that they carry Zika, so they don't seek professional medical care.