Public Health Agency of Canada using flu tracking system to monitor COVID-19

MONTREAL — The Public Health Agency of Canada is using a system already in place to track the flu to monitor the spread of COVID-19.

The agency says it is shifting the focus of FluWatchers – which it describes as “an online health surveillance system that helps track the spread of flu and flu-like illness across Canada” – to track COVID-19 during the spring and summer.

Volunteers who sign up to be FluWatchers receive an email every week asking them questions about their current health, including whether or not they have a cough or fever. The agency says the emailed questions generally take about 15 seconds to answer.

Data compiled from the answers the agency receives are plotted out on a publicly available map as well as in a weekly online report.

“If outbreaks do happen, this tool can give us an early warning,” the agency says, adding that the more people who voluntarily report to FluWatchers, the more accurate its data is.

Both people who have symptoms, as well as those feeling well, should answer the questions, the agency says

The agency says answers to its questions are collected anonymously and that it respects Canada’s Privacy Act.

You can find more information on FluWatchers, including how to sign up, here.

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