A lull in flu season?

flu season chart ny 2009-12

The last seven flu seasons in New York State

First updated Tuesday at 11:55 pm and then again Wednesday morning

The chart above depicts flu activity in New York State over the last seven flu seasons as measured by Google Flu. As you can see, this year's season got off to an unusually early start.

So, we're in the clear? Maybe.

It appears that the H1N1 wave has passed through the area. But if you dig through the surveillance reports from the CDC, you'll notice that almost all the samples that have been sub-typed are H1N1. This is the case both for New York's region and the nation as a whole.

What's that mean? Well, it could (emphasis on the could) mean that the "regular" flu season -- with its "typical" after-December peak -- is still ahead of us. (Or it might not -- the flu season in the southern hemisphere this year appeared to be mostly H1N1.)

So if you've been thinking about getting a flu shot, it's still probably a good idea.* That's true for the H1N1 jab, too (it's been so long since a flu virus similar to H1N1 has bounced around that most people don't have built-up immunity to it).

The feds have put together a flu shot locator for both seasonal and H1N1 shots (the box on the right). Albany County is giving free H1N1 shots through the end of the year by appointment (447-4505 to register). And also try your doctor for seasonal flu shots.

Update Wednesday morning

Saratoga County says it will start giving H1N1 shots to people not in priority groups starting January 1. [Saratogian]

Also: it looks some of the re-called doses of H1N1 vax did make it to the Capital Region. Schenectady County says 73 kids got the less-potent shots at its clinics. And Albany County says it got 200 doses, but didn't distribute them.

The shots, which were intended for kids, were recalled because tests indicated their potency had declined. [NYT]

* We are not doctors. Talk to your doctor.

chart data: Google Flu


If H1N1 affects the Northern Hemisphere anything like it did the southern, over 90% of all flu cases will be H1N1. Doesn't mean you still shouldn't get both vaccines - my sister just got hit with H1N1 and is miserable.

One thing about these statistics, is that the average person when they get sick with something like the flu gets some OTC meds and roughs it out. But when a "pandemic" is news fodder, people are more inclined to visit a doctor when hit with flu symptoms. Not saying people should be ignorant, but the statistics are not clean.

@Ellie and Patrick: Both good points.

Here's a little more discussion of H1N1 and the southern hemisphere from this past summer.

And here's a chart of positive flu tests reported to the CDC. It tracks a roughly similar path to the Google flu data from this year.

I've always the found the flu to be really fascinating (albeit in a grim way). It's like the weather or some other large scale phenomenon that we think we sort of understand -- until it does something completely unexpected.

I think Google is re-designing their algorithm every month to make sure it fits with historical data. I'd like to see them build this chart out for the next several months with the current algorithm... but they keep all that secret so we'll never know.

I just checked with Albany County Dept. of Health both via their website and at the phone number you list. The website said that H1N1 vaccine is now available to all, but when you try to register it lists no clinics, and when you enter your info it says "The clinic you are trying to sign up for is full" or something to that effect. I called the phone number and the recording says "no H1N1 vaccination clinics are currently scheduled". Is it available or isn't it??

@Greg, I always thought you were meant to be a doctor or scientist (having known you in real life). You have the steady disposition & intellectual curiosity needed to succeed in those fields. Then again, I thought I could be a cop for a while because being a cop is 99% attitude according to TV, so what the hell do I know.

@Mrs. M: Instead, I chose a lucrative career in public radio ; )

What's the lesson here, kids? Take more calculus.

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