Smartwatches could detect COVID-19 a few days before symptoms occur

Smartwatches capable of measuring heart rate, skin temperature and other physiological parameters could detect COVID-19 virus infection from the asymptomatic stage, alerting the owner even a few days before the manifestations of the disease raise questions.

Devices such as Apple Watch, Garmin and Fitbit watches can predict if a person is positive for COVID-19 even before they are symptomatic, or if the virus is detectable when using specialized tests. According to studies by leading medical and academic institutions, including Mount Sinai Health System in New York and Stanford University in California, smartwatches and fitness accessories could play a vital role in stopping the pandemic and other communicable diseases.

Experiments with Apple Watch devices have shown that symptoms such as subtle changes in the pulse can be seen up to seven days before the infected person feels unwell, or that the COVID-19 virus is detected by testing.

“Our goal was to use tools to identify infections at the time of infection or before people knew they were sick,” said Rob Hirten, an assistant professor of medicine at Mount Sinai’s Icahn School of Medicine and author of the study. called Warrior Watch.

Specifically, the study looked at a parameter called heart rate variability (the variation over time between heartbeats), known as an indicator of how well a person’s immune system works. “We already knew that markers of heart rate variability change as inflammation develops in the body, and Covid is an incredibly inflammatory event,” Hirten said.

The study showed that people infected with COVID-19 had less heart rate variability, as opposed to people with negative COVID. Rhythm variability reflects how active a person’s nervous system is, with the measurement of greater variability indicating an adaptable and more stress-resistant organism.

Early warning of COVID-19 infection and detection of asymptomatic cases

A separate Stanford study, in which participants wore a variety of different activity trackers from Garmin, Fitbit, Apple and other manufacturers, found that 81% of participants with a positive coronavirus experienced changes in resting heart rate by up to nine days and a half until the onset of symptoms. The study reported that an extremely high heart rate indicated the onset of symptoms.

The researchers used smart watch data to identify nearly two-thirds of COVID-19 cases four to seven days before people had symptoms, according to the study, published in Nature Biomedical Engineering.

The team also created an alarm system that warns wearers that their heart rate has been increased for a sustained period of time.

Given that more than half of coronavirus cases are spread by asymptomatic carriers, the data collected by smartwatches could be essential to control the spread of the virus. Alerted to possible asymptomatic infection, smartwatch owners could take additional measures of social distancing, thus preventing the transmission of COVID-19 to others.

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