One local school strives to stop the spread of illness by utilizing technology.
Jane Putnam, Director of Communications for Kinsa’s Fluency health program, said there are nearly 70 schools across Oklahoma that have implemented smart thermometers to track and help stop the spread of illness in the school system.
For the second year, Mark Twain Elementary in Duncan has participated in using these smart thermometers to track cold and flu symptoms in students.
The innovative school health program helps stop the spread of strep throat, flu and now COVID-19.
“We make a smart thermometer,” Putnam said. “We took the most common … device … a thermometer, and made it a communication device by connecting it to a smartphone and an app.”
The program simplifies the process by recording temperatures taken on the app and prompting symptom checks.
All of the information is anonymously sent and aggregated down to the county level. It shows where illness is spreading and how fast it’s spreading.
According to Putnam, the goal of the program is to get ahead and understand what is spreading, where it’s spreading and how fast it’s spreading and they do that with their thermometer.
“We have about two million thermometers in use across the country,” Putnam said. “Back in March we realized, as we were looking at our data, it’s been validated to predict the flu 12-20 weeks ahead of time and with the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve seen accuracy with about a three-week leading indicator ahead of COVID-19 case increases in counties across the country.”
Around 4,000 schools nationally have been accepted into the program and around 17,000 applied.
“The school has been accepted into the Lysol + Kinsa Fluency health program,” Putnam said. “All families will receive free Kinsa smart thermometers and will be able to see aggregate, anonymous information on any symptoms and illnesses going around the school.”
These thermometers help the school detect when students are sick earlier.
“These early insights help nurses and school administrators act with real-time data in order to stop an outbreak before it happens,” Putnam said.
Now in it’s sixth year, the program will help nearly 350,000 families this year.
Putnam said almost 4,000 schools in the U.S. and Canada will utilize the program as well.
As a parent of three kids, Putnam knows illness spreads rapidly in schools.
“It’s really meant to help track and curb the spread of illness by getting ahead of it,” Putnam said.
School staff can do extra cleaning and parents can be notified there are increases of cases, which makes it more likely for families to go see a doctor sooner for medication and treatment.
“For the past six years, we’ve taken our thermometers to schools in partnership with Lysol,” she said. “We’re able to make them available to schools for free, so then families can get access to these thermometers and track. Take their temperatures every morning and then the school has access, again, anonymous aggregate information, by grade of what symptoms and illnesses are spreading.”
According to Putnam, parents and staff can still order thermometers at Mark Twain Elementary.
“We wish we had funding to accept all of them,” Putnam said. “We’re grateful to be able to work with the 4,000 this year and hope to add more in the future.”
For more information about the Kinsa Fluency program, visit www.kinsahealth.com.