By Dawn Johnson
A smartphone app that purports to track cases of novel coronavirus around the world indicated there are two “self-reported” cases of the virus in Athens, as well as other cities in Georgia.
The HealthLynk Covid-19 Tracker app lists cases confirmed by the World Health Organization, deaths from Covid-19 confirmed by WHO, and “symptomatic” cases, where people have possible signs, but have not been tested, and “self positive”, self-reported cases where people have tested positive, but the cases have not been confirmed by the WHO. HealthLynk Corporation is a digital health data management company.
A spokesperson for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was not familiar with the data in the app and said there is no mechanism for self-reporting Covid-19. Currently, the CDC is the only source for coronavirus tests and those tests are distributed to departments of public health in each state. Local medical providers would request a test from the Georgia Department of Public Health and the protocol requires providers to report the results back to the department. The Region 10 office of the Georgia Department of Public Health in Athens was unavailable for comment late Friday afternoon regarding the 2 cases reported on the app and the CDC did not have data on any additional cases in Georgia.
HealthLynk Corporation was unavailable for comment, but the app appears to allow people self-report symptoms and records the data without official confirmation.
Apple and Google stated Thursday that they were cracking down on apps related to Covid-19 that aren’t from recognized institutions such as hospitals or government agencies. Google is blocking all searches for coronavirus in Google Play, in an attempt to prevent misinformation. HealthLynk’s Covid-19 tracker was still available from the Apple Store for free download as of Friday evening, but was not available in Google Play.
Concerns over the spread of Covid-19 has led to shortages of masks and hand sanitizer across the country. Many Athens area stores were sold out of hand sanitizer and 91 percent rubbing alcohol today and some medical suppliers were reporting products backordered until May. These shortage has triggered price gouging online. Amazon has removed over 1 million items from their marketplace due to price gouging or products that falsely claim to prevent or cure Covid-19. Now that person-to-person transmissions have occurred in Georgia and elsewhere in the U.S., it is important to recognize the symptoms of Covid-19 and take precautions to prevent further transmission.
Symptoms of COVID-19 may resemble the cold or seasonal flu, the primary symptoms being cough and fever. The best way to prevent infection with any respiratory virus is to use the same preventative strategies used during a normal cold and flu season: wash hands regularly, cover coughs and sneezes with your elbow and instead of your hand, touch your eyes, mouth, nose, and face as little as possible, disinfect surfaces often, and stay home when experiencing symptoms of illness until they resolve. If you believe you may have Covid-19, isolate yourself, contact your primary care doctor, and wear a mask when in public. Masks do not prevent people from becoming infected with Covid-19, but they do reduce the transmission of coronavirus. Covid-19 is believed to be transmitted through droplets of saliva and mucus being spewed into the air or onto surfaces through coughs. I
Persons who have traveled from affected countries/areas in the past 14 days and have a fever, cough, or difficulty breathing should seek medical care, and should contact their healthcare provider and inform them of their travel history before going into the facility.
Healthcare providers who suspect COVID-19 infection in a patient should report them immediately to DPH by calling 1-866-PUB-HLTH (1-866-782-4584) and ask for a medical epidemiologist.