Be SMART About Spreading the Flu


By Allison Hydzik and Tim Betler

Hundreds of school children will cast their votes for fewer sick days this Election Day by wearing small proximity sensors or “motes.” The information collected by the motes will help University of Pittsburgh researchers learn more about the spread of influenza and ways to stop it.

The “Social Mixing and Respiratory Transmission in Schools,” or SMART Schools, study researchers distributed about 700 motes to participating children in the Canon-McMillan School District today. The children will wear them on lanyards around their necks as much as possible today and then take them home to wear all day tomorrow, a scheduled day off from school.

The motes record when they are close to other motes, which gives the researchers information on how children cluster – and pass around the flu. The data will allow researchers to investigate whether limiting movement between classes during the school day, increasing vaccination campaigns, instituting educational programs, changing sick leave policies or instituting programs that encourage hand sanitizer use are better interventions for controlling the spread of flu.

The deployment will be the largest of its kind and is part of a U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) effort to create a national policy on school response to flu and pandemics.