Get That Vaccine, It's Going to Be a Bad Flu Year

200910131005-1 Map: International Co-circulation of 2009 H1N1 and Seasonal Influenza (As of October 9, 2009; posted October 9, 2009, 3:00 PM ET)

All signs point to a bad flu year and it’s going to be primarily from H1N1 (swine flu). H1N1 now accounts for over 50% of the fu cases around the world. The CDC map above shows the spread of the virus across the world.

Google Flu Trends tracks flu-related search queries (Radar post). It is also showing a dramatic increase this year for the US (data):

google flu trends october 2009

Google just expanded Flu Trends to include 16 countries and 37 languages.

If the maps and trend lines aren’t scary enough here’s the CDC’s update:

Visits to doctors for influenza-like illness (ILI) continued to increase in the United States, and overall, are higher than levels expected for this time of the year.

Total influenza hospitalization rates for laboratory-confirmed influenza are higher than expected for this time of year for adults and children. And for children 5-17 and adults 18-49 years of age, hospitalization rates from April – October 2009 exceed average flu season rates (for October through April).

The proportion of deaths attributed to pneumonia and influenza (P&I) based on the 122 Cities Report has increased and now exceeds what is normally expected at this time of year. In addition, 19 flu-related pediatric deaths were reported this week; 16 of these deaths were confirmed 2009 H1N1 and 3 were unsubtyped influenza A and likely to be 2009 H1N1. A total of 76 laboratory confirmed 2009 H1N1 pediatric deaths have been reported to CDC since April.

Thirty-seven states are reporting widespread influenza activity at this time. They are: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Tennessee, Virginia, Washington, and Wyoming. Any reports of widespread influenza activity in September and October are very unusual.

Almost all of the influenza viruses identified so far are 2009 H1N1 influenza A viruses. These viruses remain similar to the virus chosen for the 2009 H1N1 vaccine, and remain susceptible to the antiviral drugs oseltamivir and zanamivir with rare exception.

You can also track the Flu (and many other diseases) at Health Map which uses news feeds, government data and user reports as data inputs. You can observe and report flu outbreaks to Health Map via their iPhone app. Rhiza Labs Flu Tracker has a variety of flu-related visualizations including H1N1 cases by county and cumulative number of cases.

There are two vaccines that are circulating in the US. The “regular” vaccine has already landed. The H1N1 vaccine is available to healthcare workers, but does not seem to be widely available yet (at least not in the Seattle region). For more information on the vaccine check the CDC’s info page.

(Hat tip to Ramez Naam for the CDC map)