Virginia Tech flu season forecasting now part of AccuWeather

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BLACKSBURG, Va. (WDBJ7) Next time you check the weather, you may soon check how the flu is impacting your area.

Researchers at Virginia Tech have developed a way to predict when the flu will impact certain areas and how many people could become sick.

The tool will be part of AccuWeather's forecast beginning next year.

The founder of the weather organization discovered Virginia Tech's research capabilities and decided to include the feature.

This new platform gives people potential to curb the number of flu cases.

"If people are informed about diseases and their potential prevalence in a couple weeks from now they do start taking taking actions, they might actually be able to change and alter that trajectory and that's another element that I think this partnership with AccuWeather might help us a lot with," said Bryan Lewis, a research associate professor.

The team uses data from the Centers for Disease Control, and social media to offer county-level forecasts of the flu.

"One of the other ones that we use is Google Health Trends it's more of a social media indicator of when people are getting sick," said Zane Reynolds, advanced software innovation architect.

Researchers are using EpiCaster, the institute's disease surveillance program to track and predict the flu.

The institute used this same type of software to help the Department of Defense track Ebola in Africa.

Researchers say this concept will continue to be developed and become more accurate as more data become available.