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athenaResearch Weekly Flu Report: Pediatric Rates Surpass Last Season's High

by Iyue Sung, PhD, Director of athenaResearch

Over the past two weeks, the athenaResearch team noted an uptick in national influenza-like illness (ILI) rates within the athenahealth cloud-based network. However, for the week ending this past Saturday, December 13, the increase in flu diagnosis has accelerated further. Based on our data from roughly one million patient visits to more than 20,000 primary care providers and 2,500 pediatricians, ILI rates are currently tracking at levels similar to 2012-2013, which was a particularly severe flu season. More alarming is a steep increase in pediatric rates, as shown in Figure 1. These levels are driven by surges in the South and Midwest (shown in Figure 2), where pediatric flu rates have already surpassed last year’s peak levels and show no signs of abating. Although rates in the Northeast and the West are relatively modest, they are also higher than this time last year. Taken together, there appears to be a consistent pattern, across regions and age groups, of ILI rates moving towards a severe 2014-2015 flu season. The CDC warned of such potential on December 4, with one contributing factor being the mutation of this season’s predominant flu strain (H3N2). The trends for all four regions are illustrated below. In an effort to improve our flu reporting capabilities and usefulness, we are making the data values underlying these graphs available to the public, and we invite you to review them. Throughout the season, we’ll continue to experiment and brainstorm on other flu data views that would provide new insight. 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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