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New AI Technology Can Detect Covid-19 From The Sound Of Your Cough 

One of the biggest concerns that’s been raised surrounding the Covid-19 pandemic regards asymptomatic individuals who unknowingly spread the virus. Now, thanks to newly developed AI technology, healthcare officials may be able to detect asymptomatic cases simply by the sounds of their coughs. 

The technology came from a group of researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), who claim that the model can detect asymptomatic cases by listening to subtle differences between a healthy cough and a Covid-19 cough. As of right now the AI technology is still in its clinical trial period, however, the group has already started the process of seeking approval from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

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The algorithm is based on previous AI models that were able to detect lung conditions such as pneumonia and asthma, and it’s even been used in some screenings for Alzheimer’s disease, as that can cause some major strain or degradation on the vocal cords and respiratory system of certain patients. In fact, the specific Alzheimer’s model is the main one that was used to develop the Covid-19 detecting technology. 

One of the studies co-authors, Brian Subirana, who’s also a research scientist in MIT’s Auto-ID Laboratory recently explained in a statement how this technology is able to analyze our vocal cords to make such concrete conclusions. 

Things we easily derive from fluent speech, AI can pick up simply from coughs, including things like the person’s gender, mother tongue or even emotional state. There’s in fact sentiment embedded in how you cough.”

The process began with the group creating a website where volunteers were able to record their coughs using their cell phones or computers. Volunteers were both healthy and infected with Covid-19 so the technology could really hear every little difference. Participants would then fill out survey questionnaires regarding their diagnosis and any symptoms they may be experiencing. 

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People were also asked to record forced coughs, like the one you let out when your doctor tells you to cough so they can listen to your lungs. Researchers have so far gathered over 70,000 individual recordings of forced coughs. Of those recordings 2,660 were from patients with Covid-19, with or without symptoms. After they compiled the recordings they used 4,256 of the samples to train their AI models and 1,064 of the samples to test the model to see whether or not it could detect the difference in a regular cough and a Covid-19 cough. 

They then found that the AI model could tell the differences based on four determining factors: muscular degradation, vocal cord strength, respiratory function and lung performance. So far, the model has been able to correctly identify 98.5% of people with Covid-19 and correctly rule out Covid-19 in 94.2% of people who were healthy and participated in the study. 

In order for this technology to be approved and distributed throughout the nation as a valid form of testing, further research needs to be done. This would mean expanding the sample size of volunteers to include coughs from people of all ages and ethnicities. If the software does prove effective, this technology will likely take the form of a downloadable app on smart devices that would make testing very useful for the remainder of this pandemic. 

The team of researchers are seeking regulatory approval for the app which may come as early as next month, but for now researchers are continuing to perfect the technology so it can be used to its fullest potential and really help curve the spread of Covid-19.

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CDC Study Suggests Covid-19 Cases May Be 10 Times Higher Than Reported

A new study was published by JAMA this week that suggests states within America have been drastically under-reporting the amount of positive Covid-19 cases within them. While previously many healthcare experts discussed how a lack of testing resources/facilities could skew the data and just how severe the pandemic actually is in America, now they’re claiming that even the data that is recorded isn’t fully accurate. 

The study itself was performed with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and it analyzed the routine blood samples of more than 16,000 individuals between the dates of March 23rd and May 12th. 90% of the samples came from individuals over the age of 18 and more than half were women. 10 different states provided samples for the study and each was tested for the presence of Covid-19 antibodies. 

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While the number of infections represented just a small portion of the population in each region that the samples were collected from, the number of positive results was much higher than expected. Specifically, the study claims that the number of infections was 6-24 times greater than what had been reported by the media for each specific region. 

Now, based on the studies results, experts are claiming the positive amount of Covid-19 cases in America could be up to 10 times greater than what’s being reported on the news everyday. Dr. William Schaffner is an infectious disease expert who works at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine. He recently discussed with the media the reasons behind why this data is so skewed beyond just a lack of testing facilities. 

“The new data was probably a consequence of asymptomatic transmission. This virus is getting out beyond us. If you translate it to today, as much as you think is out there, there’s more, a lot more. The house is on fire.”

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Dr. Amesh Adalja, who’s been working on data collection at Johns Hopkins University since the beginning of this pandemic, agrees with Schaffner’s point that asymptomatic individuals are either overlooked as not being a serious threat, or just are unaware of the fact that they’re spreading the virus. 

Adalja claimed that asymptomatic individuals are not getting tested and some are just going about their daily lives as if nothings wrong, which thus transmits the virus to other people who may not be lucky enough to be symptom-free. 

“If you’re a person that’s sick with mild illness and you don’t want to wait in your car for eight hours at a drive-through to get a test result back in 10 days, then why would you?”

While Adalja understands the logic, it doesn’t trump the fact that the world is still in the middle of the worst public health crisis in decades, and hundreds of thousands of individuals are dying every single week as a result of these asymptomatic individuals who are continuously spreading the virus every time they step outside. 

While the world continues to wait for a vaccine, it’s imperative that we listen to our healthcare providers and wear a mask in public, social distance, and wash our hands/bodies vigorously every day. Even if you feel 100% healthy yourself, you never know what type of damage you can unknowingly be doing if you’re actively going against these government regulations.

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Apple Will Begin Placing Covid-19 Testing Facility Locations On Maps

All around the United States, coronavirus testing facilities have been opening up to give citizens access to safe testing. However, the biggest complaint so far has been that no one can find them, and even if you do know where one is, you first need to find out if you’re eligible for testing, which is posing just as much of a challenge. 

Now, Apple is distributing a smart-phone application to any lab, business, or facility that’s offering covid-19 testing. The app requires these places to register their information with Apple Maps so that users can simply open the Maps app on their phone and see a little icon wherever there’s a testing facility; much like how there’s a little gas pump on the map wherever there’s a gas station. 

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Beyond just giving this app to the facilities, Apple has also made the official template for submission available online for anyone to use and submit. You simply download the template, input the information regarding your local covid-19 testing location, and then send it back using a business email address. After, Apple will then review the application to ensure that a testing site is actually where the application says it to be. Once approved, these locations should begin to appear on Apple Maps represented by a “red medicinal icon.”

Once uploaded, on the actual digital map itself each location should specify whether the testing center is accessible via drive-through, parking lot, or inside an actual building. Each specific facility will also be able to note if they were already an existing lab, or converted into one for covid-19 testing. 

As previously mentioned, so far the largest issue with these testing facilities stems from the fact that no one knows how to find them/access them. Even if you know where one is, the procedural details regarding what one should do once at the facility is even more confusing. Most states throughout the US don’t even offer testing unless you’ve called your state’s health department and received approval for being symptomatic enough to get tested; even though many cases are also asymptomatic. 

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The demand for more testing facilities has also been an ongoing struggle, as many find themselves waiting for hours upon hours for a simple nose swab test, or not able to even find a facility to begin with. So even when individuals feel like they’re exhibiting all of the symptoms for covid-19, they still could be unable to be tested. Apple is also asking these locations to specify whether patients need a doctors approval to get tested so people don’t show up to certain places only to get turned away.

So far, no testing facilities have appeared on Apple Maps, however, it’s just one initiative out of a list of many coming from the company in an attempt to combat this virus. For example, recently Apple and Google partnered up to build a “cross-platform coronavirus-tracking tool” that allows users with either an iOS or Android phone to see if they’ve potentially come in contact with someone who has the virus. 

Luckily, more drive-through testing facilities are also beginning to appear throughout the country, as promised by president Trump weeks ago, however, it’s just not happening quickly enough. Walgreens opened 15 drive-through testing centers throughout seven states last week; CVS currently has three and Walmart has two, but all of those facilities are by appointment only. 20 testing facilities that are being “provided” to the public by some of the largest corporations in America is simply not enough to protect 300 million+ Americans. Citizens are doing their part by social distancing, and remaining as hygienic and clean as possible, so it’s time for our healthcare industry and government bodies to show us the same level of dedication and protection.