Viral news

google flu nys albany 2012-12-11

From Google Flu Trends.

The flu is now "widespread" in New York State, the state Department of Health reports. What's that mean? There have been lab-confirmed reports in more than half the counties in the state (48, to be exact). For the latest report, that includes Albany, Saratoga, and Rensselaer counties.

The DOH bases its reports on samples sent to the Wadsworth Lab here in Albany for testing, as well as surveillance reports from healthcare providers about the number of people coming in with influenza-like illnesses.

But many people who get the flu don't end up going to a healthcare provider. So to get a sense of the picture that includes those people, we can look to Google Flu Trends, which uses search data to monitor flu activity (and there's research it actually works pretty well). Google Flu is reporting a recent upswing in flu activity into the "high" level in New York State.

Somewhat oddly, Google Flu reports the Albany area still has relatively low levels of flu activity. But nearby cities -- including Syracuse (corroborated by the DOH report) and New York City -- are at high levels. That could mean the wave has yet to arrive -- or maybe we'll get lucky. (The flu can be hard to predict -- it's kind of like the weather.)

Bottom line: It's still worth it to get a flu shot. The season lasts into the early spring. And it takes a few days post-jab for your body's immune response to get with the program. Unlike in some years past, flu shots are plentiful and easy to get. They're available at many pharmacies now.

In other news: Wash your hands.

graphs: Google Flu Trends

Comments

Your article on the flu presents only one viewpoint and does not mention other ways of avoiding the flu. Vaccinations are a controversial subject and both sides should be presented to avoid upsetting those that do not agree with vaccinations. Visit nvic.org for another viewpoint.

Alas, by blogging about this you are causing more flu searches to originate from Albany, causing the graph to reflect that. The bottom line is that you're causing the pending flu outbreak. Think I'm wrong? Check back in one week.

@Bianca I fully support people understanding the risks and benefits of any treatment. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has extensive information about the safety of the flu vaccine. And it should be mentioned that hand hygiene, cough etiquette, avoiding touching your face, and general wellness (rest, exercise, reduction of longterm stress) all can probably help reduce the chances of getting the flu.

However, I think it's fair to say that vaccinations are controversial. They are a foundational part of modern medicine, and research indicates there are few health problems associated with them. Their use is supported by many leading physicians associations. [Institute of Medicine] [AMA] [American Academy of Pediatrics]

The fact that serious illnesses such as measles and polio are now virtually non-existent in this country are a testament the effectiveness and importance of vaccines. [CDC] [CDC]

It's unfortunate that what appears to have been some incredibly unethical acts by researchers -- evidence of which prompted a retraction of their work -- has contributed to a segment of people questioning the benefits of vaccines. [British Medical Journal] [NYT]

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