Emory Doctors have helped develop a free online tool that can be used by the public to both assess their likelihood of having the novel coronavirus and gauge the severity of their symptoms. 

The tool, which was released on March 20 at C19check.com, was developed by Vital, a company that provides software for emergency departments, in conjunction with Emory’s Office of Critical Event Preparedness and Response (CEPAR) and the Department of Emergency Medicine. 

Users input their age and answer up to three questions that assess symptoms, such as a fever, cough, fatigue, headache or life-threatening signs, such as extreme lightheadedness, severe difficulty in breathing and preexisting medical conditions. The tool then rates the severity of the user’s condition and gives advice on what steps should be taken.

According to Assistant Professor of Emergency Medicine Anna Yaffee, one of the designers of the website, the tool aims to provide information to the general public and reduce and prevent strain on health care systems.

“We’ve seen in previous epidemics and pandemics that the general public hasn’t had a lot of good sources of information to help them determine what they need to do and that the health care system has the potential to become overwhelmed by the patients seeking care,” Yaffee said. “We want to use this tool to both help the general public determine their risk based on their symptoms and their medical history and also help manage the surge of people entering the health care system.

Alexander Isakov, executive director of CEPAR and professor of emergency medicine, said that C19check.com was developed based on a similar online tool developed prior to the H1N1 swine flu pandemic in 2009. 

“This tool is actually rebuilt from a tool that was developed in 2008,” Isakov said. “The team that developed it was concerned about a flu pandemic and an influenza pandemic. The tool was actually deployed in 2009 during the H1N1 flu pandemic.” 

The tool has been refitted with information about the signs and symptoms of COVID-19 based on information published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and in “reputable medical literature” about the experiences of outbreak hotspots such as Italy and China and the West Coast of the U.S.

“What’s really great about the tool is that … the Vital programmers are very responsive to input to make changes as needed to the tool,” Isakov said. “As more information becomes available about the nature of [the coronavirus] or the signs and symptoms [that] are most prevalent among those that have it … the tool can be updated to accommodate the new data.”

The Emory team is working to ensure that the recommendations provided by their tool match the CDC’s recommendations. The CDC released a similar tool on March 19 to assess symptoms on their website. 

“We are checking to make sure that recommendations that our tool would provide are in line with the recommendations that the CDC tool would provide,” Isakov said, in order to prevent “dissonance in messaging.”