(NPN) - For Annie Whittington, a case of the flu can mean the difference between life and death.
"I'd say the stakes are pretty high," she said.
Whittington is waiting for a kidney transplant and has a weakened immune system. When she heard about smart phone apps that help people track and avoid disease outbreaks, she gave them a try.
"I like to travel," Whittington said. "So it would be a change in my vacation plans if I saw an outbreak in an area I wanted to visit."
Think about the Zika outbreak in Miami Florida, where pregnant women are being told to avoid certain neighborhoods. With disease tracking apps, you can pinpoint areas you should avoid.
The "Sick Weather" app scans social media posts for people griping they're sick. It might pick up "I have bronchitis" or "my son has chicken pox", then it tracks and maps the reports.
"Flu Tracker" maps out flu infected areas across the country, telling you where the virus is most severe.
The "Healthy Day" app lets you type in a location, then it uses medical and crowd-sourced data to hyper-localize the latest cases of many different types of illnesses.
Dr. Amesh Adalja, an infectious disease expert in Baltimore, said the apps have the advantage of showing real-time data, but he cautions users to keep it all in check.
"When people get a lot of information that they may not be able to digest or completely understand, it can lead to paranoia and fear," Dr. Adalja says. "We saw that during the Ebola outbreak, we're seeing this currently during the Zika virus outbreak, so there is that downside."
The illness tracking apps are available for Android and iOS.
For more information on the apps, click the links below: