What flu epidemic?

"Hey Doc, how's that flu thing going on this time of year," a patient asked me this week. "I mean, you practically made me get a flu shot last fall," he continued in a joking manner. I smiled (kind of).

The press really hasn't said anything about the human flu season. There are countless stories about bird flu, like, how it's in other parts of the world, or, how the United States is no way near ready for a bird flu pandemic.

So, being curious, I checked out the CDC (human) flu website. In case you didn't know, they have a week by week report during the flu season. And, I was surprised from their latest data which is from the week of February 17.

From a epidemiology standpoint, stating there is an "epidemic" occurring is misleading (but makes for a great post title). A small map is above, and in the nation's midsection, where the color is red, there is "widespread" influenza occurring. Here is the summary from the CDC flu website:

During week 7 (February 11 - February 17, 2007), influenza activity continued to increase in the United States... Twenty-four states reported widespread influenza activity; 14 states and New York City reported regional influenza activity; 10 states and the District of Columbia reported local influenza activity; and two states reported sporadic influenza activity. The reporting of widespread or regional influenza activity increased from 33 states for week 6 to 38 states for week 7. The percent of deaths due to pneumonia and influenza remained below baseline level.
The last sentence above is probably why there has been no press coverage on this story, yet. My state is in the "local activity" category, but almost surrounded by the widespread states. So, we'll have to see what happens.

My prediction is that when and if the "weather" story starts to be less newsworthy, then the press will start to pick up on the "widespread flu" story. By the way, as I tell all my patients, it's never too late to get that flu shot. That is, if you can still find one in March.