Las Vegas schools track COVID and flu with smart thermometers

More than a dozen Las Vegas-area schools are using smart thermometers to track fever-related illnesses like COVID-19 and the flu.

Campuses—within the Clark County School District, as well as public charter schools and daycare centers—are among more than 5,000 participants nationwide in Kinsa’s FLUency program.

This is the sixth year that Tate Elementary School in Las Vegas has been involved. Principal Sarah Popek said one of her kindergarten teachers saw something about the program and approached her with the idea.

“It’s just one more tool we can use to keep our staff and students safe and healthy at school,” she said.

Kinsa, a San Francisco-based medical technology company, aims to curb the spread of infectious diseases through early detection and response, said Nita Nehru, spokesperson for Kinsa and founder of FLUency.

This school year in particular, as COVID-19 precautions ease, the program can be critical from a public health perspective in helping families and schools stay ahead of the game, he said. she declared.

Schools can join FLUency for free, which is funded through a partnership with Lysol. And families at participating schools have the option to request a free Kinsa smart thermometer to use at home.

Kinsa hopes to soon expand the program to 3,000 more schools across the country.

A smartphone-connected thermometer has a medical triage feature that prompts families to answer questions about symptoms.

A phone app shows what symptoms have been reported at a school, such as three cases of sore throats in second graders. Parents also have the option of self-reporting their child’s diagnosis, such as the flu.

It’s a similar concept to parents talking to each other during outings and school pickups about circulating illnesses, Nehru said.

But the data sent through the app is anonymous and aggregated, she said, so there is no personally identifying information.

At Tate Elementary — which Popek says is a low-income school — some families would bring their child who wasn’t feeling well to campus to take the child’s temperature because they didn’t have a thermometer in them. the House.

Digital thermometers are expensive, especially high-quality ones, she said.

“A lot of our families use the ‘hand to forehead’ test,” the manager said, noting that it’s unreliable in Las Vegas, where hot weather can make kids feel hot.

Kinsa thermometers are not used on campus but are shipped to school for families who request them. Then they are sent home.

Typically, about 100 families at Tate Elementary choose to receive a thermometer each year, or about 20 to 25 percent of the school’s population, Popek said.

Last school year amid the COVID-19 pandemic, there was a huge increase in family opt-ins, she said, and she expects even more this year.

Additionally, a large majority of school employees participate, Popek said.

Back in Kinsa, the company once received a thank you email from a mother at a participating campus who said her son had a high fever and through the app she knew there was had cases of the flu, Nehru said.

The mother took her son to a doctor and was prescribed Tamiflu early on when it was most effective.

“I think this is a perfect example of how valuable this program can be,” Nehru said.

Contact Julie Wootton-Greener at [email protected] or 702-387-2921. Follow @julieswootton on Twitter.

Lance B. Holton