Thursday, January 3, 2013

Extreme Flu Activity in the US

A friend of mine came down with a nasty flu recently.  I checked Google Flu Trends, and found that flu activity is currently at "intense" levels throughout the US.  This is the highest flu activity Google Flu Trends has recorded in the last six years (image from Google Flu Trends 1/3/12).

Every state except Connecticut has flu activity of "high" to "intense".  

Now is the time to be vigilant about flu prevention.  Vaccination may be an option, though vaccines don't become effective for approximately two weeks after administration.  Other prevention strategies include:
  • Wash your hands often
  • Avoid touching your eyes and mouth
  • Avoid contact with sick people
  • Get sufficient, high quality sleep
  • Manage stress effectively
  • Keep diet quality high
And if you are infected, stay home, make sure to cough and sneeze into your sleeve or a handkerchief, and wash your hands often to avoid infecting others.

You can find more flu prevention information at the following US Centers for Disease Control website:

CDC Says "Take 3" Actions to Fight the Flu

Chris Kresser also recently discussed flu vaccines and flu prevention here.


Steve Parker, M.D. said...

And don't pick your nose.

The flu vaccine is prepared months in advance of flu season, based on educated guestimates of which strains of flu we'll see in the future. The experts got it right this year.

I don't always get a flu shot, but I'm glad I did last fall. Over the last two weeks, I've treated 15-20 people in the hospital with flu.


Stephan Guyenet said...

Ha, excellent.

Jane said...

Steve Parker MD
Have you seen this 2006 BMJ article about flu vaccines?
'Influenza vaccination: policy versus evidence'

Summary points
Public policy worldwide recommends the use of inactivated influenza vaccines to prevent seasonal outbreaks

Because viral circulation and antigenic match vary each year and non-randomised studies predominate, systematic reviews of large datasets from several decades provide the best information on vaccine performance

Evidence from systematic reviews shows that inactivated vaccines have little or no effect on the effects measured

Most studies are of poor methodological quality and the impact of confounders is high

Little comparative evidence exists on the safety of these vaccines

Reasons for the current gap between policy and evidence are unclear, but given the huge resources involved, a re-evaluation should be urgently undertaken

Dylan said...

Reasons for the current gap between policy and evidence are unclear? I'm not saying it's necessarily true but I can certainly think of a reason, or some billion...

Renee Lee said...

Even the Paleo-folks aren't immune! I was out of commission for a full day with this guy the weekend before Christmas.

Rebounded quickly, but that was miserable.

Steve Parker, M.D. said...

The Cochrane Collaboration wasn't too impressed with flu vaccines in a 2010 review:

Infectious disease doc Mark Crislip has a long post on the flu vaccine at Science-Based Medicine, for those really wanting to dig deep:


Jane said...

Steve Parker
Thanks, that's very interesting to say the least. I don't envy you as a doctor having to try to make sense of all this. Your first link says much the same as the BMJ article.

'At best, vaccines might be effective against only influenza A and B, which represent about 10% of all circulating viruses. ...Authors of this review assessed all trials that compared vaccinated people with unvaccinated people. The combined results of these trials showed that under ideal conditions (vaccine completely matching circulating viral configuration) 33 healthy adults need to be vaccinated to avoid one set of influenza symptoms. ...Our results may be an optimistic estimate because company-sponsored influenza vaccines trials tend to produce results favorable to their products...'

And your second link, written by a doctor on a site called Science-Based Medicine, says

'For the flu vaccine all the data suggests huge benefit for negligible risk.'

RLL said...

The studies suggest minimal benefits for infants and the old (above 60). For the later a newer protocol of a much larger dose may help, not always available. Being well past 60 getting a flu shot has gone down in my list of priorities, but I will follow future studies and may start getting them again.

Jin said...

@Steve Parker,

Thanks for posting the link to Science-Based Medicine. I've enjoyed poking around the site an reading.

Jane said...

I'm well past 60 and I would never dream of having a flu shot. I would prefer to have flu, if that's really what it is when I get flu-like symptoms. I only get them when I've been stressed, just like my father. I reckon my body is telling me something and I need to listen. Go to bed, don't eat more than you feel like eating, make sure it's whole food, and rest. The symptoms will go away by themselves as your body does what it needs to do. Who knows whether a major repair job is taking place that was urgently required and needs bed rest to be completed successfully.

Fritzrips said...

I work in the ER, and we are either required to get vaccinated, or wear a mask all winter. Most choose vaccination. Anecdotally, 30% of the staff has had positive influenza swabs. Draw your own conclusions.

Jenny said...

The google flu map is generated based on Google queries. This makes me wonder if it might be skewing higher now because of the huge increase in Android phones and tablets which make it easy to utilize Google search.

In the past, I noticed that a surprisingly large number of people who fall into the "unsophisticated user" category (to use a euphemism) don't turn to Google to answer questions. But with the new Android devices it becomes much easier.

So the timing of the spike is still to be trusted, but perhaps not the magnitute

Sarah said...

Just curious, how is it that I never get the flu? I went for a period as long as 5 years without getting sick with the flu even though I was exposed and should have gotten it. Not that I'm asking for it. The times that I have been sick whether flu or otherwise, it was at a time of stress and/or lack of rest. I believe the WPF when they talk about diet and sickness. There have been studies, none that I can cite, that show that people who consume organic traditional foods high in saturated fat were sick much less. The average american does not eat this way. Another thought is that the flu shot may cause the flu to mutate? Just a thought, not any info to verify. Unless you know anything about this?

Jessi said...

Rock on Connecticut! So proud of my home state - we wash our hands and avoid touching other people if at all possible =p

Sustainable Eats said...

Sarah, I am 45 and have never had a flu shot or the flu. I have two children in public school and am not a germaphobe. I never see the doctor. We drink raw milk and eat local veg that I scout out based on flavor profile and growing practices, or I grow it myself. We also eat a fairly high fat animal-based diet and try to soak all grains but that doesn't always happen. I'm sure we would be healthier for eating fewer grains and less sugar but so far I feel like we've been pretty dang healthy.

Laura said...

I usually go to the CDC site:

J D C said...

This is incredible - you did an amazing job!!! Thanks for sharing.....Dr. Luis Fandos

Netkafa said...

The epidemic is finally reduced ...