By Paula Ebben

BOSTON (CBS) — Researchers at Harvard University and Massachusetts General Hospital need your help to battle coronavirus, and this time it has nothing to do with social distancing or personal protection equipment (PPE).

They are trying to recruit as many people as possible to download the COVID-19 Symptom Tracker app onto their smartphone and then tell them how they feel.

“We need everyone to participate, whether well or sick, whether they feel they are risk or not,” explained Dr. Andrew Chan of Massachusetts General Hospital.

The app was created in the U.K., and researchers there have already collected data from millions of people. The idea is to use the information to learn how the virus spreads, who is most at risk and which areas are being hit.

Dr. Chan is heading up the research here in the U.S., and says U.K. researchers are already learning a lot.

“We used to think the symptoms were primarily fever and cough, but actually there is a substantial number of people that really have primarily issues either with their digestion or things like abdominal pain or diarrhea. Other folks just have very subtle symptoms like loss of taste or smell,” he said.

The coronavirus symptom tracking app. (Photo Courtesy: Dr. Andrew Chan)

The app asks users to check in every day, sick or not. Everybody’s answer is important, and according to Dr. Chan, if enough people here in the U.S. get on board, they could see results quickly.

“If we get information, we can turn it back around and use it to help get through this together,” he said.

Rachel Barker is helping to spread the word in the U.K. “I’m going to share it on every platform I have in the hope that we get enough people participating to make the data meaningful and helpful,” she said.

According to Tim Spector, a researcher who helped develop the app at King’s College in London, they need millions more to sign up to generate enough data to give scientists a fighting chance.

”If we can spread the app faster than the virus, then we can all beat this thing,” he said.

Paula Ebben


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