CINCINNATI - It's that time of year when sneezes, sniffles and coughs make their way through the Tri-State, and a new Facebook application may help you track down who is spreading the bug.
"Help, I have the Flu," lets Facebook users play detective by finding out who may be spreading influenza based on their status updates. The new app scans the social network for words like "flu" "sneezing" and "coughing," and looking at places those people might have checked in.
The app from Help Remedies also examines when people post to Facebook and takes many late-night status updates as a sign that the friend isn't sleeping enough and, thus, would be more susceptible to catching and spreading the virus.
If you find an ill friend, the app allows you to notify them that they infected you or have the potential to infect others.
The information can be particularly helpful this season as the Tri-State has already been hit hard with the flu. Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana are among many states that are seeing high levels of the flu. The Tri-State's flu rating moved from high to intense, which indicates a large presence and likelihood of spreading, according to Google Flu Trends.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention says the flu viruses are spread mainly by droplets made when people with the flu cough, sneeze or talk to others within a six-foot distance — so the app's results may not be bad advice when it comes to people with whom you come in contact.
Perhaps I should take this advice based on my own search results. The app recommended that I quarantine 9 On Your Side Meteorologist Larry Handley, who has been battling a bug this week. So is a flu in my forecast? Larry is a prime suspect -- according to the app -- because he mentioned "a cold" in a status update, works within sneezing distance in the newsroom and has been posting on Facebook late at night (or maybe just very early in the morning considering this Good Morning Tri-State meteorologist's hours.)
So are you left wondering if you're sick? The CDC says people who have the flu often feel some or all of these symptoms:
For more information about the flu, go to http://www.cdc.gov/flu/index.htm.
To download the app and see which of your friends are to blame, go to http://apps.facebook.com/help-flu/?fb_source=search&ref=ts&fref=ts.