Flu forecasts now accessible online, three Hampton Roads cities named top infected regions

Virginia Tech researchers are partnering with AccuWeather to bring a new type of forecast that can help keep you healthy.

The EpiCaster is a tool that shows what scientists are forecasting in regards to the flu.

Researchers at the Biocomplexity Institute of Virginia Tech plan to make flu forecasting more accessible.

The Biocomplexity Institute has a partnership with AccuWeather that will place the institute’s cutting-edge science on the AccuWeather platform.

The partnership could dramatically change the level of flu knowledge and awareness for people across the U.S., a release about the partnership said.

AccuWeather can leverage data derived from years of research and refinement of the institute’s EpiCaster disease surveillance platform to help warn people weeks ahead of a potential flu outbreak.

This week the site says Virginia is in the low category for flu risk. It does however list Chesapeake, Norfolk and Portsmouth as the top infected regions in Virginia.

“This innovative, strategic partnership between AccuWeather and Virginia Tech enables brands to reach customers with relevant messages to offer contextually relevant information to help inform their decisions before the flu’s impact begins,” said Eric Danetz, global chief revenue officer of AccuWeather. “Using the most accurate flu predictions to deliver helpful, targeted information further enhances AccuWeather’s unique capability to help brands deliver the optimal message that is timely, targeted, and more likely to be positively received.”

Researchers originally developed EpiCaster on the Biocomplexity Institute’s high-performance computing clusters to help guide the U.S. government’s response to the 2014 Ebola outbreak in West Africa, the release said.

“U.S., state, and local governments currently use this sophisticated disease surveillance system, which utilizes large data collections from a wide array of sources, including the World Health Organization, Centers for Disease Control, and social media,” said Madhav Marathe, professor of computer science and a lab director of the Biocomplexity Institute. “It allows us to provide highly reliable predictions on how epidemics are likely to evolve and spread.”

According to the CDC, it takes about two weeks after a flu vaccination for it to protect against the virus. The agency recommends that everyone six months of age and older get vaccinated as a preventative measure. Click here for other recommendations from the CDC to prevent infection.