The Flu Report: 1/28/15 January 28, 2015 By Caitlin Bradford Leave a Comment Image courtesy of flunearyou.org. Click here to view the interactive map. The number of flu cases has begun to level off, but the flu is still a serious concern as the month of January concludes. Overview: The overall number of flu cases actually went down this week by about 10%, when compared to last week’s numbers. Although no predictions can be accurately based on one week’s worth of data, a brief lull surely gives a welcome respite to those areas that have been hardest hit by the flu, and these hard hit areas extend all over the United States. Indeed, there remain only two US jurisdictions reporting less than widespread influenza activity. Lower rates of spread have been reported recently in some areas, particularly the southern Atlantic coastal states and the states surrounding the Great Lakes. Five states have been downgraded to regional activity (Alabama, Georgia, Hawaii, Minnesota, and Tennessee), but the states that were the last bastions of only regional activity (specifically, Arizona and California) are now listed as having widespread flu activity. This ebb and flow of influenza activity underscores the importance of vaccination; the severity of the season can spike rapidly, and unvaccinated individuals are, of course, especially vulnerable to the flu and its potentially severe complications as it spreads quickly. As evidence of this, the flu-related death rate remains above the epidemic threshold at 9.3%, and pediatric deaths are now on pace to possibly surpass last year’s numbers. According to FluNearYou.org, California and New England have the highest concentration of influenza cases, while the CDC shows Texas and the surrounding states as the current influenza hotzone. Given that CDC numbers are about 2-3 weeks behind FluNearYou’s instant, user-generated numbers, it is possible that the hotbed of flu activity may in fact be centered on the coasts now. By the Numbers: In the United States, the CDC has reported: Flu Cases (Laboratory Confirmed) – 5,104 Influenza A – 4,800 Influenza B – 304 Flu-related Deaths (Percentage) – 9.3% (2.2% above epidemic threshold) 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: North America appears to be nearing a moderate rating for influenza activity, according to Google Flu Trends. Europe remains high to moderate, and Spain is the only country with a severe rating. However, Austria, the Netherlands, and France appear to be approaching severe levels and may cross the threshold in the coming week. Japan is the only Asian country with a severe rating, and the Southern Hemisphere remains almost entirely flu free. Staying Healthy: Our tip for this week: don’t forget to Take Three! The CDC’s Take Three program suggests doing three key things in order to avoid the flu: take time to get a flu vaccine, take everyday actions to stop the spread of germs (i.e. washing hands, covering your mouth when coughing), and take flu antiviral medications if your doctor prescribes them. Via these methods, it is possible to stay healthy and be better prepared to fight off any infection should you fall ill. 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.