Zika focus of Arizona crowdsourcing smartphone app research

As of September, the Zika virus was officially on U.S. soil. Local businesses must do everything they can to keep travelers feeling safe, so they remember to come back.

A new University of Arizona crowdsourcing app aims to detect, track and prevent spread of the Zika virus.

Developed by health researchers in the College of Public Health and UA Bio Computing Facility, the Kidenga smartphone app, available on Android and iOS, allows users report mosquito activity on a weekly basis, as well as disease symptoms. It also provides users educational information, according to the school.

A crowdsourcing approach enlisting citizens is being used as controlling the disease has proven challenging; it requires both grassroots initiatives, as well as government-supported efforts, researchers say.

"If enough people use the app, it may be able to detect ZIP codes that appear to have an uptick of suspicious symptoms," says Kacey Ernst, an infectious disease epidemiologist with the College of Public Health. "This early alert is critical to reduce or prevent further spread of the virus,” she stated, adding “with more information, we hope that more people will join the fight to control these mosquitoes.”

The app’s data can be shared among users in Arizona, Florida and Texas. More than 20,000 U.S. citizens have contracted Zika via a mosquito bite or sexual relations, according to the university.

As FierceHealthcare reported last April, most exposed American have some information regarding Zika’s link to birth defects, but misinformation persists regarding testing and vaccination.

Going forward, the research teams hope to expand user access in more states, specifically those with a higher risk of Zika, for wider reporting on Aedes aegypti, the mosquito that transmits the disease.