Updated: 10/29/2013 10:44 PM KSTP.com By: Naomi Pescovitz
Doctors agree the vaccine shot is your first and best line of defense against the flu. But there is another tool most people have at home changing the way we fight the influenza: a cell phone.
When Mai Yang gets her flu shot every year, it is easy for her to keep her mind off of the little prick in her arm.
"To help me protect myself from getting sick or getting someone else's virus, especially my kids," Yang said after getting her flu shot at an Entira Family Clinic in St. Paul.
That same motivation has taken Yang to the web looking for tips on her family's health.
"Immunizations, I go to CDC," Yang said.
The CDC also releases weekly flu updates and there is an app for that. It is not the only one. There's "Flu Tracker," "Fight the Flu," even "Flu Near You." Google is also tracking flu trends.
"With Google, what they can do with their software is figure out when people are searching for certain key words and phrases, it clues that there's an outbreak of something," said Dr. John Barsanti with Entira Family Clinics.
Barsanti says the technology can help when the season is at its worst.
"The neat thing about it is when they've gone back and looked, that data comes out much faster than the data from the CDC saying we're finding flu strains because there's going to be a delay," Barsanti said.
Even though the web is a mecca of influenza information, doctors warn to be careful about what you read, especially when it comes to with your health.
"What's probably most important, I think, is for people not to use those tools to say well I don't need to get my flu shot yet because it doesn't look like there's a lot of flu out there," said Doug Schultz with the Minnesota Department of Health.
"The best defense that we have against influenza is still the influenza vaccine," Schultz said.
The Minnesota Department of Health also releases a weekly update on the status of influenza in the state.
Right now, Minnesota is listed as "sporadic," which is the second lowest ranking of the five categories describing the prevalence of the virus.
Click here for more resources on ways technology is helping to track cold and flu trends.