Sunday, October 25, 2009

Update on tracking the H1N1 swine flu

The amount of mis-information on the H1N1 Swine Flu is monumental. It is extremely important to find accurate and up-to-date information free of political and governmental bias. In that regard, there are sources online that graphically provide that kind of information.

The most impressive and current Website is FluTracker. This map and the data behind it were compiled by Dr. Henry Niman, a biomedical researcher in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, using technology provided by Rhiza Labs and Google. The map is compiled using data from official sources, news reports and user-contributions and updated multiple times per day.

One thing you can see immediately is that the flu is a serious concern. As of October 25, 2009, my own state, Arizona had 2736 confirmed or probable cases of the flu with 21 deaths, so far. However, in Pennsylvania there have been 22,503 cases with 12 deaths and only 1 negative.

Now what can you do about it? Wash your hand frequently. Avoid crowds (yeah). It might be helpful to know the percentage of hospitalizations for the flu. Here is a recent assessment from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:
The percentage of hospitalizations for 2009 H1N1 flu in the United States varies by age group. From August 30, 2009 through October 10, 2009, states reported 4,958 laboratory-confirmed 2009 H1N1 hospitalizations to CDC. The percentage of 2009 H1N1 related hospitalizations that occurred among those 0 to 4 years old was 19%; among those 5 years to 18 years was 25%; among people 19 years to 24 years was 9%; among those 25 years to 49 years was 24%; among people 50 to 64 years was 15%; and among people 65 years and older was 7%.
You can see that there is a distinct advantage to being old.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Accurate information on the spread of Inluenza

One of the hardest things to judge from the news is the actual threat of the H1N1 Flu virus, also known as Swine Flu. What is apparent is that the Swine Flu is no more virulent or fatal than many other flu strains. Nevertheless, inflammatory news articles sell so they are starting to appear more and more regularly. Google has announced the expansion of Google Flu Trends. To quote their recent blog post,
Last November, we launched Google Flu Trends in the United States after finding a close relationship between how many people search for flu-related topics and how many people actually have flu symptoms. By tracking the popularity of certain Google search queries, we are able to estimate the level of flu, in near real-time. While some traditional flu surveillance systems may take days or weeks to collect and release data, Google search queries can be counted immediately. Google Flu Trends provides an additional surveillance tool that may help public health officials and the public make more informed decisions about preparing for the flu season.
Here is the Google video on the subject.

How well does this work? They claim that their analysis of the data has a .92 correlation with official U.S. flu data. OK so where do you go to get official data? Check out the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for a weekly update.

Don't panic, get accurate information. You may wish to pass this post along to friends and family to help stop the flood of misinformation that will undoubtedly start coming in the media.