OutSmart Flu welcomes you back from Winter Break and to the new semester.

Flu transmission continues in the U.S. and Wisconsin. However, the pattern appears to be unique in Madison. The next several screens depict flu transmission in the U.S. and Wisconsin according the CDC and Google Flu Trends.

CDC ILI surveillance shows Wisconsin at low(ish) transmission as of 1/11/14

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While Google Flu Trends (1/22/14) depicts a moderate level of flu transmission

CDC ILI surveillance indicates we may be post-peak.
Flu transmission in the U.S. this year (red) vs. previous years

Source: CDC Flu View

ILI at UHS
At UHS, only 2-3% of clinic visits are for influenza-like illness (ILI). Flu transmission in Madison dropped in the last month; this was not surprising since a large number of students were away for Winter Break. Thus, the pattern in Madison is unique from the rest of Wisconsin and the U.S. based on Google Flu trends (next three graphs).

Flu in U.S. this year (thick) vs. previous years (thin)

Source: Google Flu Trends; 1/22/14

Flu in Madison this year (thick) vs. previous years (thin). Note the drop during Winter Break.

Source: Google Flu Trends; 1/22/14

Flu in Milwaukee this year (thick) vs. previous years (thin).

Source: Google Flu Trends; 1/22/14

Flu among younger individuals
In many areas of the country, including Wisconsin, there has been a proportionally higher number of younger adults hospitalized with influenza, specifically H1N1 (swine flu). While this is unusual for influenza, in general, it can be explained by two factors:

1. Non-vaccinated younger adults have little to no immunity against H1N1. Older adults are more likely to have some immunity to H1N1 because similar swine flu viruses circulated in the U.S. prior to 1957.

2. Younger adults are less likely to get the flu vaccine as compared to older adults. In 2009, the H1N1 vaccine was first given as a separate shot. From 2010 onward, H1N1 has been contained in the seasonal flu vaccine. There is evidence that getting the flu shot annually affords greater protection than getting it sporadically (or not at all, of course).

Flu in 2014
What will be the pattern of flu transmission on campus in 2014? It’s possible that the recent influx of tens of thousands of UW-Madison students back to Madison will “stir the pot” and we’ll see a rise in ILI in the coming weeks. It is also possible that the declining trend in ILI due to the dispersion of students out of Madison over Winter Break will simply continue downward. There is always the possibility of a second peak in flu transmission later in the season as has been observed previously. The next few weeks will be very interesting!

Flu Vaccine
To date, influenza strains circulating in Wisconsin are contained in the 2013-14 Seasonal Flu Vaccine. That’s good news.
It’s not too late to get the flu shot. If there isn’t a medical reason for you to avoid the vaccine, make an appointment with UHS to get vaccinated (call 608-265-5600).

Grow OSF
Thank you for being citizen scientists and helping to track flu and flu prevention on campus.
The continued growth of our community of users will improve the accuracy of estimating flu on our campus. Please invite your friends to join this unique initiative. You can use the share button on the app to email your friends to join OSF.

Raffle
Our next raffle for $500 is on March 13, 2014. Good luck!

Twitter and Facebook
Please follow us on Twitter (@outsmartflu) and like us on Facebook (Out Smart Flu). Retweet our tweets and share our posts. Help OutSmart Flu go viral at UW!

Have a great Spring Semester!

 

Posted in Uncategorized

Happy New Year from the OutSmart Flu Team! Thank you for using OutSmart Flu. As you know, flu is here.

 

Flu transmission is at high levels right now in 25 states in the U.S.Image

Google Flu Trends (1/3/14) depicts a similar pattern.

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Flu transmission in the U.S. this year (red) vs. previous years.

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ILI at UHS
At UHS, only 2-3% of clinic visits are for influenza-like illness (ILI). Not surprisingly, this is lower than the national average of 4-5% (previous screen); probably because we are on Winter Break and UHS is seeing fewer students right now.

In the rest of Madison, flu transmission is at high levels. 

Flu in Madison this year (thick) vs. previous years (thin)

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Source: Google Flu Trends; 1/3/14

 

Winter Break
Similar to last year, flu is peaking during winter break. What will it be like when the spring semester starts? Will it be post-peak or still rising? That depends on how well people take precautions to prevent spreading and catching flu. Remember that when you come back from break, you will be returning to crowded dorms, classrooms, and shared space; and flu prevention begins with you.

 

OSF users
OutSmart Flu users appear to be experiencing less ILI than the rest of campus and Madisonians. Maybe you got the vaccine this year? Maybe you are washing your hands properly and getting extra rest?

These are questions our study hopes to answer at the end of the year. Please continue to use OSF, so we can track flu and flu prevention on campus.

Flu Vaccine
To date, influenza strains circulating in Wisconsin are contained in the 2013-14 Seasonal Flu Vaccine. It’s not too late to get the flu shot. If there isn’t a medical reason for you to avoid the vaccine, make an appointment with UHS to get vaccinated (call 608-265-5600). Local pharmacies are also vaccinating individuals.

Raffle
On December 20, we held our second raffle for $500. The winner was a freshman, pre-nursing student. Congratulations!

Grow OSF
Thank you for being citizen scientists and helping to track flu and flu prevention on campus. The continued growth of our community of users will improve the accuracy of estimating flu on our campus. Please invite your friends to join this unique initiative. You can use the share button on the app to email your friends to join OSF.

Twitter and Facebook
Please follow us on Twitter (@outsmartflu) and like us on Facebook (Out Smart Flu). Retweet our tweets and share our posts. Help OutSmart Flu go viral at UW!

Hope you are enjoying your Winter Break!

 

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized

OutSmart Flu News

Flu in Wisconsin
The Wisconsin State Department of Health Services has declared that “flu has arrived early in Wisconsin.” (11/20 Milwaukee Journal Sentinel). This declaration was based on having 25 lab-confirmed influenza cases and 15 hospitalized cases statewide, half of which are in Milwaukee County. To date, influenza strains circulating in Wisconsin are contained in the 2013-14 Seasonal Flu Vaccine. OutSmart Flu will inform you if and when a strain not in this year’s vaccine becomes predominant.

ILI surveillance by the CDC, Google Flu Trends, UHS, and OutSmart Flu all indicate that flu transmission is still low.

The next 4 figures depict flu transmission in the U.S. and in Madison, WI to date.

More flu in southern U.S. Sporadic transmission in Wisconsin

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Google Flu Trends (11/21/13) depicts a similar pattern

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Flu transmission in the U.S. this year (red) vs. previous years

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Flu in Madison this year (thick) vs. previous years (thin)

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Million Dollar Question
How intense will flu transmission be this year?
It’s hard to know. 2012-13 was very intense. 2011-12 not as much.
This is why daily ILI surveillance by OutSmart Flu is potentially valuable.

Thanksgiving
This is an opportune time of year for flu transmission, particularly to those most vulnerable: crowded airplanes and buses, spending time with grandparents, meeting the new baby, packed movie theaters, Black Friday shopping, travel back to campus. 

Proper hand washing is especially important to help prevent the spread of germs like influenza.

 

Updated app available
We released updated versions of OutSmart Flu that fix the multiple surveys bug. Please update your app on Google Play or iTunes.

We are working on other fixes and improvements. Please continue to send us feedback (see the “settings” tab) to help improve the OutSmart Flu Initiative at UW-Madison.

Posted in Uncategorized

OutSmart Flu News

Thank you for using OutSmart Flu.  Your reports are helping us track and report the spread of flu on campus.

Raffle
The first of three $500 raffles was held on October 31. The winner was a UW senior majoring in microbiology. Congratulations!
The next raffle will be held on December 20. Good luck, OutSmart Flu users!

Users
So far, we have about 500 OutSmart Flu users. Thank you for being citizen scientists and helping to track flu on campus.
Flu activity continues to be low in much of the U.S. The continued growth of our community of users will improve the accuracy of estimating flu on our campus. Please invite your friends to join this unique initiative.

Flu Surveillance

Google recently revised their algorithm to estimate flu activity in the U.S. and retrospectively revised their Flu Trends data.

Check out the Flu Trends graphs below showing data from before and after revision of the algorithm. Pay attention to the bold blue line. 

Oct 24 estimates of flu activity this year (bold) vs. previous years (thin), Madison, WI

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Nov 1 estimates of flu activity this year (bold) vs. previous years (thin), Madison, WI 

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What happened?
First, some background: The Google method is to analyze how many people are googling keywords like “flu” or “influenza.” In 2010, they showed that this method can predict flu epidemics in the U.S. 1-2 weeks before methods used by the CDC. Last year, flu transmission reached intense levels in December-January. During this time, the Google method overestimated the incidence of flu in the U.S. by more than double. Google’s estimates of flu activity during that period were still timely, but not accurate.

What went wrong?

The Google algorithm is susceptible to heightened media coverage of flu. When flu transmission is intense, media covers it, and more people google flu-related topics even if they are feeling well. Google knew of the vulnerability before the 2012-13 flu season. After its effect was observed, they could revise and try a new algorithm, and they did so last week.

Opportunity for Citizen Science

Limitations in Google’s method are why we began OutSmart Flu. Analyzing symptom reports is a more accurate method to estimate flu activity than mining search engine data.<br><br>Our goal is to provide you timely and accurate information on flu spreading at UW. You are helping UW become the first to crowd-source campus flu activity using smartphones. This can open the door to crowd-sourcing the detection of other illnesses on campus.

 

Please continue to send us feedback. You are helping us to improve the app and the OutSmart Flu initiative at UW-Madison!

Posted in Uncategorized

OutSmart Flu has launched!

The OutSmart Flu initiative at UW-Madison will officially launch today, September 20, 2013!

Here is where you can find out about current flu activity levels on campus as reported by our community of OutSmart Flu users.  Once people join and begin using OutSmart Flu, we will report the latest data on the occurrence of influenza-like illness at UW-Madison.

As expected, flu transmission in Madison, WI is at a minimal level right now, according to Google Flu Trends.  Naturally, flu activity will increase as we approach the winter months.

Please come back and visit this page again!

Posted in September 2013
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