UCL Institute of Health Informatics


Pandemic Bugwatch



Bugwatch logo

What is the study about?    

Coronavirus affects us all. We already know a lot about the virus and how we can protect ourselves, but there are many things we still need to understand. For instance, how long are people sick with coronavirus, how unwell do they feel when the get sick, what symptoms do they get, and how do they respond to government advice? We also need to know how many people are getting other common infections and if these are being treated with antibiotics. This information can help us give clearer advice to members of the public and healthcare workers.

What does the study involve?

Participating is easy and everything is done online.

If we have contacted you to take part in the study we will ask you to complete a one-off registration survey about yourself and any children (under 16) in your household. The survey will take about 15 minutes for each household member. In this survey we will ask you about your age, sex and ethnicity, in addition to questions about your general health, your previous use of antibiotics, your oral health and whether you think you might have previously had COVID-19. We will also ask you about other people in your household. This information will help us understand your general health status and it will allow us to investigate what are the risk factors for getting COVID-19. Because we know very little about COVID-19 right now, we need to ask about a wide range of symptoms and your previous health, including your oral health, because we may find that these are important risk factors for the disease and our research is uniquely placed to investigate this issue.

After that, you will receive an email each week asking you to complete a short survey asking if anyone in your household had any symptoms of common infections (not just coronavirus) in the past week. Each survey will take about 5 minutes if you have had any symptoms, and otherwise less than 1 minute. If you have had any symptoms in the last week, we will ask you about what types of symptoms you had, including typical ones like cough and fever, but also less specific symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhoea and tooth ache. This will give us a better picture of the range of symptoms people in the community are experiencing. We will then also ask you about whether you sought any medical advice and if you received any antibiotics. This information will help us understand how many people need to seek medical care as a result of the symptoms they have and what happens a result of seeking care. If you do not complete the short weekly survey, we will send you a reminder email about this survey.

The study will last for a total of 12 months.

Who is conducting the research?

The Pandemic Bug Watch study is being conducted by a team of researchers at University College London led by Professor Andrew Hayward, Mrs Ellen Fragaszy and Dr Rob Aldridge based at Institute of Health Informatics, 222 Euston Road, London, NW1 2DA. Email: ihi.bugwatch@ucl.ac.uk. Tel: (0) 20 7679 2000

Will my information be kept confidential?

Yes. All the information that you enter into the survey will go directly into secure computers at UCL. Access to personal data that could be used to identify you (e.g. your name and email address) will be strictly limited to a small number of trained researchers at UCL. The information will be collected and stored in accordance with data protection legislation. UCL policy is to store data for 20 years.

What will happen to the results?

Because of the importance of sharing research data during the pandemic, we aim to share summary results with the public and other researchers on a weekly basis on this website. We will also send you updates about the preliminary results published on this website via the email you use if you sign up for the study. When the study is over, we will make the findings available to other researchers and members of the public through scientific journals. We will also share the full results in a format with personal identifying information such as name, date of birth, email address removed, but in a way that will enables other researchers to us the data from the study for wider research. The data we share will allow other researchers to follow someone in the study up across weeks of the study, but without knowing their identity. Therefore, any data that publish or share will be de-personalised which means it will no longer contain information such as your name and email address.

Local Data Protection Privacy Notice:

The controller for this project will be University College London (UCL). The UCL Data Protection Officer provides oversight of UCL activities involving the processing of personal data, and can be contacted at data-protection@ucl.ac.uk

This ‘local’ privacy notice sets out the information that applies to this particular study. Further information on how UCL uses participant information can be found in our ‘general’ privacy notice:

For participants in health and care research studies, click here

The information that is required to be provided to participants under data protection legislation (GDPR and DPA 2018) is provided across both the ‘local’ and ‘general’ privacy notices.

The lawful basis that will be used to process your personal data are: ‘Public task’ for personal data and’ Research purposes’ for special category data.

Your personal data will be processed so long as it is required for the research project. If we are able to anonymise or pseudonymise the personal data you provide we will undertake this, and will endeavour to minimise the processing of personal data wherever possible.

If you are concerned about how your personal data is being processed, or if you would like to contact us about your rights, please contact UCL in the first instance at data-protection@ucl.ac.uk.

What should I do if I think that I have coronavirus?

Advice on what to do if you think you have coronavirus is changing all the time so you’ll need to follow the most current guidelines and you should follow the advice and guidance provided by the NHS https://111.nhs.uk/covid-1For more information on coronavirus, visit nhs.uk/coronavirus.

For more information on how to support your mental health during isolation, visit https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/coronavirus-and-your-wellbeing/.

For ideas on things to do whilst in isolation, visit https://www.marchnetwork.org/creative-isolation