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athenaResearch Weekly Flu Report: Diagnosis Lower Than Past Seasons

by Anna Zink, Data Engineer, athenaResearch

Curious about this year’s flu season? Data from athenahealth’s cloud-based network allows us to track regional and national flu rates in near real time. The athenaResearch team monitors flu rates each week from over 23,000 primary care providers in order to provide timely information on how the flu is trending this season. We also provide data to several researchers working to modernize disease surveillance and help doctors and health departments anticipate the demands of their patients and residents. Most recently, our data is being leveraged on Boston Children’s Hospitals’ HealthMap Flu Trends site to help improve flu predictions. 

Current Flu Rates

We track the flu by calculating the percentage of primary care visits resulting in a diagnosis of influenza like illness, or ILI, which is an indicator of suspected flu. In recent years, flu rates have increased during the month of December, peaking around the start of the New Year. However, for the week ending December 12, flu rates remain low with only .95% of primary care visits resulting in ILI diagnosis. This is compared to 1.9% in 2014 and 1.3% in 2013. A similar trend is observed in pediatric visits where we are seeing 2.6% of visits with ILI compared to 4.5% in 2014 and 3.1% in 2013. 

National Flu 121515

Regionally, flu rates are low as well. The Midwest, Northeast, and West are in line with the 2013 season, while in the South, which typically reports the highest rates of flu, our data is showing us that diagnosis are lower than in the recent years.

Regional Flu 121515

Despite a slow start to the flu season, people have prepared themselves for the upcoming season by getting their flu vaccinations. Vaccination rates peaked slightly earlier in 2015 than in prior years, but overall are comparable to 2014 and 2013.

Flu Vaccination 121515

The next few weeks will be crucial for assessing the severity of this year’s season and we will continue to track the flu trends and provide regular updates through the blog and on Twitter. And for predictions on upcoming weeks, we encourage you to visit HealthMap.


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Comments

Submitted by Matt - Friday, January 15, 2016

Does AthenaHealth make any of their underlying data available to the general public? I'm thinking of something similar to how Google flu use to allow users to download the data that populated their graphs. The HealthMap Flu Trends is good in that it shows the AthenaHealth ILI data in their graph, but I can't find any way to download the data in the graph. And downloading the data can be very helpful to others for slicing and dicing the data in different ways.

Submitted by Judy Spahn ARNP - Tuesday, December 15, 2015

I am practicing in Davenport, Iowa. We have been seeing some ILI cases for the past 2 to 3 weeks. Influenza testing was negative.

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