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Seattle Flu Study adapted for coronavirus pandemic

A study originally focused on influenza is shifting to the coronavirus in an effort to better predict the number of people who may be infected.

SEATTLE — What began as a study to learn how influenza spreads is being adjusted so researchers can better understand the coronavirus. 

The Seattle Flu Study is being adapted for the virus that killed nearly 100 people in Washington state and infected nearly 2,000 by Sunday, March 22

For several weeks, the team has worked to adapt the project from a study to be part of the public health response. This week, the team officially partnered with Public Health - Seattle & King County to launch the Seattle Coronavirus Assessment Network. 

The effort will include testing from a sample of people across Seattle and King County.

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"SCAN can’t test every individual. However, by using innovative research methods and data modeling, SCAN can help us better predict the number of people who may be infected but unrecognized," the team's website states.

The research team is asking people - showing symptoms or not - to visit their website, sign up, and apply for a swab kit. Those who test positive will be contacted be a team member.

“Despite the rapid onset and growth of this outbreak it has been hard to understand or predict its true extent and impact,” said Jeff Duchin, MD, Health Officer for Public Health — Seattle & King County. “By testing a broad sample of people in different communities, we’ll have a more detailed understanding of where the virus exists and who is being affected. This is important information that can help us learn about the true severity of infection, whether the community measures being taken to reduce its spread are working or need to be adjusted, and when, eventually, the number of COVID-19 cases are finally in decline.” 

What are coronavirus symptoms?

The symptoms of coronavirus are similar to the flu or colds. Symptoms include a fever, cough, and shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, according to the Washington State Department of Health.

The severity of symptoms ranges significantly. Some cases are very mild with symptoms similar to the common cold, and some cases are more like severe pneumonia that require hospitalization. Most deaths have been reported in older adults who had other health conditions, according to DOH.

Symptoms may appear as soon as two days after being exposed to the coronavirus or as long as 14 days.

A new Washington call center has been set up to answer your questions about COVID-19. If you have questions about how the virus spreads, what is being done in Washington state, and what you can do if you have symptoms, call 1-800-525-0127 and press #.

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