A new Website designed to predict local flu outbreaks has released its first projections for the year: Overall, the 2013-2014 influenza season will peak later than usual with fewer cases than last year, but is likely to be considerably more severe than the 2011-2012 season.
Infectious disease experts at Columbia's Mailman School of Public Health launched the Website
, which reports weekly predictions on influenza activity in 94 U.S. cities.
- Flu cases in most of the country will peak in January, including San Francisco (Jan. 5-11), Chicago (Jan. 12-18), Atlanta (Jan. 12-18), Washington, D.C. (Jan. 12-18), Los Angeles (Jan. 12-18), New York City (Jan. 19-25), and Boston (Jan. 26-Feb. 1).
- Flu cases will continue to rise into February for several cities, peaking in Miami during the week of Feb. 2-8 and Providence, RI, during Feb. 16-22.
- Overall, the 2013-2014 flu season will peak later with fewer cases than the 2012-2013 season but will be more severe than the 2011-2012 season.
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New predictions are posted every Friday afternoon during the flu season.
"For the first time, people can see the outlook for seasonal flu in their area by going online," said Jeffrey Shaman, assistant professor of Environmental Health Sciences at the Mailman School, who led the development of the site and forecasting system.
"We hope the site will help foster greater awareness of influenza activity and risk around the country, and motivate individuals to take measures, such as vaccination, to protect themselves against the virus."
The Website provides an interactive map of the United States displaying flu activity in cities across the country, predictions for coming weeks, and a map that illustrates the proportion of flu cases by region.
"Flu forecasting is a powerful example of how public health research is leveraging technology to prevent the spread of infections and safeguard our health," said Linda P. Fried, M.D., dean of Columbia's Mailman School.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that up to 49,000 Americans die from the flu every year.
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