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athenaResearch Weekly Flu Report: Rates Continuing to Climb

by Iyue Sung, PhD, Director of athenaResearch

Influenza-like illness (ILI) rates continue to climb, according to the most recent patient visit data from the athenahealth cloud-based network, containing more than 55 million patient records. This finding is consistent with the latest reports from our friends at Healthmap and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In a related note, the CDC also issued a health advisory last week that one strain of the flu virus (H3N2) has mutated, which decreases the effectiveness of the flu vaccine. Figure 1 shows a few interesting patterns. On a national level, ILI rates have been climbing for several weeks. But for the week ending this past Saturday, December 6, we’re seeing a slight bend, or a slower climb; similar patterns appear in the South and the Midwest. Among the pediatric population (ages birth-18), national rates have also been climbing for several weeks, with a slight dip in the South (Figure 2). However, in the Midwest, rates for this season appear to have reached levels similar to last year’s peak. Given the differences in rates between regions and age groups, it’s not clear whether this season will be mild, or we’ll see rates climb towards those experienced during the severe 2012-2013 season. As the height of flu season is fast approaching, we will, of course, continue to share our flu data throughout the holiday season. As always, your comments and suggestions are welcome and may be directed to athenaresearch@athenahealth.com, or to @IyueSung or @JoshGray_HIT on Twitter. athenaResearch analyst Stewart Richardson generated the analysis for this report.

As a statistician, Iyue is responsible for methodology, analytic infrastructure, and extracting data-driven insights from the athenahealth patient database. 

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