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New COVID-19 symptom tracker app helps researchers better understand coronavirus

Data shared will be anonymous, developers say

A new app is allowing British researchers to better understand the coronavirus and how it spreads. It has become so popular, app developers helped create an American version too.

The COVID Symptom Tracker app has two million downloads and counting. It was created by a team of UK researchers, including Tim Spector.

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

Experts hope their crowdsourced data can slow the outbreak as app users help them learn how the virus spreads, which areas are being hit and who is most at risk.

Researchers track things like cough, fever and fatigue but they want users to check-in even if they aren’t showing coronavirus symptoms.

"So we can tell within a few hours each day what’s going on and how many people are reporting symptoms. So it’s very fast,” Spector said.

Rachel Barker convinced her friends to take part.

“I’m going to share on every platform I have in the hope that we get enough people participating to make the data meaningful and helpful,” she said.

Countries including China and South Korea used security cameras and drone technology to help track and contain the virus.

Researchers hope the COVID app can do the same for the UK and the U.S., which now leads the world in confirmed cases.

“It would be really important in the U.S. to see which areas are most affected, which are not, so both states and federal government can move resources to those areas,” Spector said.

Spector said millions more need to sign up to generate enough data to give scientists a fighting chance. He believes slowing the spread of COVID-19 begins in the palm of your hand.

App developers said all the data people share will be anonymous and not used for any commercial purpose. Users can delete all their records when the crisis is over.

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