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Northwestern's COVID-19 diagnostic. Photo: Northwestern University

A new wearable device is capable of catching early signs and symptoms associated with COVID-19.

Why it matters: With tests still in too-short supply, any device that can clue doctors to an early COVID-19 case is welcome. And the combination of people staying home because of social distancing and the overwhelming threat of the disease makes home diagnostics even more important.

How it works: The experimental wearable device, which sits at the base of a patient's throat, was developed by researchers at Northwestern University and the Shirley Ryan AbilityLab in Chicago. It was initially meant to monitor speech patterns in stroke victims before it was reengineered for COVID-19, says Northwestern's John Rogers, who led the development.

  • Worn 24/7, the device detects coughing intensity and patterns, along with breathing sounds, heart rate and body temperature. The data is transmitted wirelessly to the cloud, where algorithms provide graphical representations that can be interpreted by physicians.
  • Rogers says about 25 people are currently wearing the devices, a mix of health care workers monitoring themselves for signs of COVID-19 and patients who have been sent home from hospitals and are being monitored remotely.

The new device joins an array of home diagnostics that have become suddenly popular during the pandemic, including pulse oximeters that can measure blood oxygenation levels — a vital sign for COVID-19 patients.

  • "The technology is here to take hospital ICU-grade diagnostics and deliver it to the home, to be worn on the skin for continuous health monitoring," says Rogers. "We think the pandemic will lead to a broader awareness of the value of this monitoring."
  • By one recent count, the market for connected medical diagnostics is expected to grow by an average of 25% a year between now and 2025. With companies like Amazon and Apple increasingly focusing on health diagnostics, "there is a huge opening for tech companies to do more of that work," futurist Amy Webb told me recently.

The bottom line: Health monitoring won't have to wait until your doctor is in.

Go deeper: Diagnostic testing supply shortages threaten coronavirus response

Go deeper

Fauci's guidance on pre-vaccine coronavirus treatments

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Antibody drugs and various medicine cocktails against the coronavirus are progressing and may provide some relief before vaccines.

The big picture: Everyone wants to know how and when they can return to "normal" life, as vaccines are not expected to be ready for most Americans for at least a year. Two therapies are known to be helpful, and more could be announced by late September, NIAID Director Anthony Fauci tells Axios.

Updated Oct 7, 2020 - Health

World coronavirus updates

Expand chart
Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins; Map: Axios Visuals

New Zealand now has active no coronavirus cases in the community after the final six people linked to the Auckland cluster recovered, the country's Health Ministry confirmed in an email Wednesday.

The big picture: The country's second outbreak won't officially be declared closed until there have been "no new cases for two incubation periods," the ministry said. Auckland will join the rest of NZ in enjoying no domestic restrictions from late Wednesday, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said, declaring that NZ had "beat the virus again."

Aug 14, 2020 - Health

The pandemic's toll on mental health

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

One in four Americans between 18 and 24 years old say they've considered suicide in the past month because of the pandemic, according to a survey from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention.

Why it matters: The findings confirm warnings from public health experts about the long-term mental health impacts from the pandemic.