Flu season fizzle?

google flu trends albany 2012-04-02

The dark blue line is the current season.

Now that spring is here, we're nearing the end of the traditional flu season.* And much like this past winter, this flu season has been something less than formidable (thankfully).

The graph above is Google Flu Trends track of flu-related search data for the Albany area this season, compared to previous seasons. (Google says the city specific tracking is still experimental -- here's the graph for New York State.) The state Department of Health's reports also point to a mild season around the state -- visits to sentinel providers are down a lot compared to last season, the number of hospitalized patients for flu is way down, and the percent of emergency room visits for flu has been more or less flat for the season.

But... Interestingly, there's been a recent uptick in the number of positive flu tests -- the week of March 24 had the highest number of positive reports all season. And the number of hospitalized patients is on the upswing. Let's hope that doesn't continue to develop.

On tracking bugs: More than flu this season, we noticed (anecdotally, online and off, whatever that's worth (not a whole lot)) many more people complaining of The Cold That Just Won't Quit (early winter) and the Stomach Bug from Hell (over the last month). It'd be great if someone could develop a way to glean this kind of stuff from Twitter and Facebook, and then provide reports. "Hello, we've noticed a recent increase in the number of your friends reporting being sick..."

* If you talk with flu researchers, they'll tell you the "flu season" is often neither typical nor traditional. For example, in 2008-2009, some of the highest activity months in New York State were May and June. The flu is the like weather -- you can make reasonable guesses based on patterns, but you never really know until it happens.

graph: Google Flu Trends

Comments

I had a bout of flu-like symptoms that kept me out of work a few days last week, even having gotten my flu shot months ago.

That probably wasn't the actual flu.

This year I did not go for the Flu shot. I live in northern NJ and was diagnosed with the Flu on 4/7/12. Next year I will definitely get the flu shot.

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