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athenaResearch Flu Report: Pediatric Rates Spike in the Northeast

by Stewart Richardson, athenaResearch Data Engineer

While most of the Northeast U.S. is recovering from the recent blizzard, the flu continues to constitute a public health risk, both nationally and in that region, particularly among children. Based on visits to roughly 20,000 health care providers across the athenahealth network, aggregate influenza-like illness (ILI) rates rose slightly last week. This increase, as Figure 1 illustrates, was driven almost entirely by the spike in pediatric rates.

As shown in Figure 2, the increase in pediatric flu rate is most concerning in the Northeast, which saw a 2.4% increase in diagnosis over last week. The pediatric ILI rate is now higher in the Northeast than the highest levels reached in that region during the harsh flu season of 2012 – 2013. The “second peak” pattern that we are seeing in the Northeast is also evident in the South and West, though the pattern is far less pronounced.  

Throughout this season’s athenaResearch flu reports,  we have noted that mutations in the flu virus have made this year’s vaccine less effective than that of previous seasons, resulting in abnormally high flu rates. While we saw a large outbreak in the South and Midwest in late December and early January, it looks like we are now seeing the peak rates in the rest of the country. With that in mind, maybe the Northeast blizzard had a positive side effect: it kept children out of schools and unable to spread disease.

We will continue to monitor ILI rates and report on any notable patterns or resurgence.  As always, your comments and suggestions are welcome and may be directed to, or to @IyueSung or @JoshGray_HIT on Twitter.

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