The Flu Report: 12/17/14 December 17, 2014 By Cait Hartwyk Leave a Comment Image courtesy of flunearyou.org. Click here to view the interactive map. The flu is still spreading, and it is becoming more virulent in the United States and across the world. According to the Centers for Disease Control, 41 of 54 regional areas are reporting widespread activity, making preventative measures against influenza even more important. Overview: As stated above, 41 of 54 areas are reporting widespread activity. Only Region 9 (AZ, CA, Guam, HI, NV) has less than half of districts reporting widespread influenza activity, and only Regions 1 ( CT, ME, MA, NH, RI, VT) and 9 show outpatient infection activity as being ‘Normal’ – all other regions are at elevated levels. The Influenza A (H3) variant is the most common, and, as mentioned last week, the biggest issue we face with influenza this year is ‘drift variants’ which are mutations of the virus that are different from the strains the flu vaccination is designed to protect against. FluNearYou.org is showing numbers similar to CDC estimates, but its user base is showing Texas, Florida and the Greater New England area as locations with the highest concentration of influenza (note that this organization uses user reported data, a different methodology than CDC modeling). Another key location with a high influenza rate, according FluNearYou but not the CDC, is Puerto Rico where approximately one-third of users are showing at least minimal symptoms of influenza. Indeed, such widespread flu activity lends further veracity to the CDC’s prediction that this is likely to be a tough flu season. By the Numbers: In the United States, the CDC has reported: Flu Cases (Laboratory Confirmed) – 3,415 (21.2% of tested specimens) Influenza A – 3,252 (95.2%) Influenza B – 163 (4.8%) Flu-related Deaths (Percentage) – 6.0% (0.6% below epidemic levels) NOTE: Flu cases, as referenced above, are confirmed cases in people who have gone to see medical professionals. Percentage estimates, referenced in the “Overview” section, include these documented cases from medical professionals but also a variety of other self-reported metrics. Around the World: All of North America and most of Europe and Asia are now listed as having moderate to severe levels of flu, according to Google Flu Trends. Meanwhile, the Southern Hemisphere remains virtually flu free with the exception of Chile which has a low to moderate level of flu activity. It is highly recommended that travelers receive a flu shot before traveling, especially to any of the highly affected regions. Staying Healthy: Our tip for this week: Clean it up! Whether its your hands, your keyboard, or kitchen countertops, everything that you might regularly touch that may host germs should be sanitized. Frequent handwashing always helps, but do not forget to disinfect the objects you touch often as well. Disinfecting wipes are always a good measure as well as sprays for some hard to reach areas. If cleaning electronics, use a cotton swab and alcohol, and work carefully, making sure to just moisten and wipe what you are cleaning but not fully soak it. For additional help, contact a Passport Health flu professional at 1-888-499-PASS (7277) and we’ll help you schedule your flu vaccination today. The Flu Report is a weekly blog post designed to give updates on the spread of influenza throughout the year. It is posted every Wednesday and focuses on regional outbreaks, global spread and ways to avoid infection.