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Could your smartwatch be the key to earlier detection of COVID-19? Duke researchers say most likely

Researchers have been assessing whether information about smartwatch wearers’ health can detect COVID-19 in a study called 'Covidentify.'

DURHAM, N.C. — Researchers at Duke University are exploring how data collected by smartphones, FitBits, Apple Watches and other smartwatches may help determine whether or not device users have COVID-19. 

"We've seen that other infections were detectible by smartwatches, the idea that we could use this to detect COVID became pretty obvious," assistant professor of biomedical engineering at Duke University Jessilyn Dunn said. 

The research study is called CovIdentify. Researchers have been assessing whether information about smartwatch wearers’ health, such as sleep schedules, oxygen levels, activity levels, and heart rate, can detect early signs of coronavirus.

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They believe smartwatches could help compensate for some of the shortcomings with COVID-19 testing and early detection. 

Jessilyn Dunn is leading the study and says so far, out of the 7,500 people participating about 90 people got coronavirus. 

"For those who did wear the watch during the infection we see what we expect, we see an increase in heart rate, we see a decrease in physical activity, increase in sleep disturbances," Dunn said. "The beauty of the smartwatch is it can actually detect a lot of these things before you yourself might be able to."

As the delta variant takes hold in North Carolina, this could be a game-changer. The study now looking for more people to learn more about the highly contagious strain. 

The hope is that you'll soon get a warning on your wrist telling you something is wrong, potentially slowing the spread of the virus.  

"Hey it looks like something might be going on today, it might be a good idea to go and get a test," Dunn said.

One of the other crucial elements of the study is getting wearable devices into underserved communities.

"The people who are most affected by COVID-19 are also those people who are less likely to be enrolled in this study, for various reasons," Dunn said.

Dunn says they've made a push to get underserved communities involved to make sure the data doesn't have disparities. 

If you’re interested in participating in the program, you can sign up at covidentify.covid19.duke.edu.

Contact Lexi Wilson at lwilson@wcnc.com and follow her on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.

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