2011 Flu: A Guide

by Howard Gerber on January 24, 2011

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With the end of 2010, the increase in flu outbreaks could be seen. This was especially true in the southeastern United States as well as in New York. Because the flu can cause such serious complications, this can be a worrisome statistic; fortunately, there is good news. The flu shot that was produced for this year appears to be an excellent match for the strain that has emerged. This means that if you did get a flu shot, your protection against the illness will be more effective. If you haven’t gotten a shot yet, it isn’t too late to get protection. Encourage those you work with, as well as patients and family members, to get their annual flu shot each year in order to limit their risk.

Most people, both in and out of the field of medicine, have heard how important the flu shot is and probably even know the basics of how to limit their exposure to the virus. However, did you know there are now online tools that can help people learn more about the flu?

Google Flu Trends

Google Flu Trends is a resource that tracks what people are searching for that pertains to flu activity. Medical professionals have noticed the trends tend to be an accurate predictor of official numbers. This tool shows the level of flu activity, as decided by search terms, on a scale of minimal to intense in locations around the world. It is possible to zoom in on continents to get a more localized chart. Because people tend to search for information related to their symptoms the data from Flu Trends is available much more quickly than official lab results.

Flu.gov

The Flu site has information for individuals and health care providers. There are informative articles, answers to frequently asked questions, and links to the Twitter and YouTube accounts associated with the site for additional information.

Kids Health

The Kids Health site offers a good breakdown for children who want to know more about the flu. There is the option to have the text read to the child and the information can be translated into Spanish. This is an excellent resource for children or for those who want only basic information.

Apps

There are numerous applications available for iPhone and Android smart phones that have to do with the flu. Most were developed during the high publicity of the Swine Flu; however, many will still be quite useful during the current flu season.

Preventative measures are an important component in reducing the spread of influenza. In addition to frequent hand washing and avoiding crowded locations individuals can now also use technology to help them reduce their risk of contracting the flu. What other websites or new technologies do you recommend for people who are worried about the 2011 flu season?

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