Google Flu Trends, Aging Parents, Epidemiology and a Few Resources
Flu is here and for the next couple of months or so many of us will need to take precautions to prevent, if possible, getting sick.
Some influenza seasons are worse than others, and this year appears to be more severe than the last few flu seasons. But no matter what year it is, it’s doubly important to help aging parents avoid influenza exposure as much as possible — for elders every season is a severe flu season, and no senior of any age should get very far into the fall months without getting a vaccination at a physician’s office, pharmacy, or local clinic.
Today I went to Google Flu Trends to learn where in the United States influenza is hitting the hardest, and right now this dynamic mapping site indicates that the flu is everywhere. Google collects its data by keeping track of internet searches for symptoms such as fever, headache, or sore muscles. The collected search statistics turn out to be good predictors of what parts of the country are experiencing influenza-like illnesses.
Right now, January 12, 2013, the Google flu map shows that the flu is widespread — almost every state in the U.S. is the same bright read color, indicating that lots of people are sick with the flu and searching to learn more. A user can click in each state to look at the influenza-related searches from there. Click on the map to visit Google Flu Trends.
The data depicted by Google Flu Trends often corresponds to, but is not a substitute for, the hard data that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) receives when epidemiologists from around the country collect and submit data about actual diagnosed influenza cases in their states. In tracing the course of an epidemic, epidemiologists and health officials need to collect the specifics about place and time of an illness as well as general characteristics of the people who are sick (age, gender, ethnicity, seriousness of illness, pre-existing health conditions, etc.). At this time, Google Flu Trends, while predictive of case counts, does not provide public health officials enough detailed information. Look at the CDC Influenza Summary Update.
Resources on Influenza
- Flu.gov Senior page - Department of Health and Human Services
- CDC Flu Page – Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- Doctor Say Flu Prevention Especially Important for Seniors – Weather.com
- Flu Rages, Caregiving Suffers – NYTimes New Old Age Blog
- Flu FAQ – Oregon Public Health Authority
- Educating Older Adults About Influenza and Vaccination (PDF) - National Council on Aging (NCOA)
- Preventing Influenza in Older Adults (PDF) - National Council on Aging (NCOA)
- Flu Prevention Tips for Seniors - Aging Abundantly blog
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