People wearing masks as a preventive measure against the spread of the COVID-19 novel coronavirus, in front of a hardware store in Long Beach, California(AFP/Apu GOMES)
People wearing masks as a preventive measure against the spread of the COVID-19 novel coronavirus, in front of a hardware store in Long Beach, California(AFP/Apu GOMES)

Fever heatmaps hint turning point in US’ Covid-19 cases soon: JP Morgan analysts

Hindustan Times, New Delhi | By HT Correspondent
UPDATED ON MAR 30, 2020 09:33 PM IST

The turning point in the continuing increase in Covid-19 cases in United States’ hospitals may happen in a matter of days rather than weeks, two analysts at financial services firm JP Morgan have said.

The analysts made the projection on the basis of data from kinsa Insights, the healthcare firm that has generated heat maps from over a million internet-connected thermometers used by people all over the US.

In the past, the data generated by the thermometers have been able to predict flu hotspots on the basis of fever spikes much before the federal government’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention received the information.

The amount of cumulative unexpected illness, expressed as addtional share of the population affected by influenza-like illness (https://healthweather.us/)
The amount of cumulative unexpected illness, expressed as addtional share of the population affected by influenza-like illness (https://healthweather.us/)

It was also able to predict outbreaks of Covid-19, the disease caused by the Sars-Co-2 pathogen, much before the CDC’s surveillance programme that uses hospital records spotted it. Fever is one of the telltale signs of Covid-19. The World Health Organization says 90 percent of COVID-19 patients have high fever as an early symptom.

In a report, the New York Times pointed out how Kinsa’s data had recently indicated an unusual rise in fevers in South Florida, even though it was not known to be a Covid-19 epicenter. South Florida became a Covid-19 hotspot days later. But the data also pointed to spots in Florida, Michigan, Arizona and eastern Texas, where not as many cases have been reported, a report in the NYT said.

This map tracks how severely the population is affected by influenza-like illness (https://healthweather.us/)
This map tracks how severely the population is affected by influenza-like illness (https://healthweather.us/)

The company, which compares anonymised thermometer reading to historical trends, calls it an “early warning system” for illness.

Analysts at JP Morgan, who have been tracking the fever data made available by the firm, found that the Covid-19 pandemic started spreading in March with atypical illness readings peaking in the third week of this month, and has been declining since then. The real time data leads the hospitalisation data by about 5 to 10 days, possibly the time taken by an individual to test and be hospitalised.

The U.S. Health Weather Map, a visualization of seasonal illness linked to fever, indicates a drop in the comparative instances of fever at a pace than was previously expected.
The U.S. Health Weather Map, a visualization of seasonal illness linked to fever, indicates a drop in the comparative instances of fever at a pace than was previously expected.

The analysts spotted an inflection of atypical influenza fly in the third week in real time data to conclude that it appeared the containment measures in the US were showing results. This, the analysis concluded, implied that the turning point in hospital admissions is likely to be in terms of a number of days, rather than number of weeks. This would imply, it said, that economic activity may restart sooner than what had been expected.

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