A new predictive model from the University of Chicago indicates we should prepare for a flu season that’s “worse than average.” One important indicator in the model is the severity of flu in Australia, where the seasons are ahead of those in the U.S.; Australians just suffered through their worst flu season on record. The data underscore the importance of getting immunized early in the season—as in, now—especially for those at highest risk, such as healthcare professionals, older adults, pregnant women, the chronically ill, and young children. It should also alert urgent care providers to prepare for a high number of patients presenting with flu-like symptoms. In the meantime, ask every patient if they’ve received a flu shot yet this year, and offer to provide one on the spot for those who have not received one and don’t have any contraindications. The University of Chicago model is expected to be of greater use in years to come, as it enables earlier, more accurate predictions. Using historical data, the model retrospectively predicted the severity of every U.S. flu season between 2002 and 2016. While most flu-related hospitalizations and deaths occur among people 65 and older, healthy children and younger adults can also experience severe problems, including death. The CDC reports it receives nearly 100 reports of flu-related deaths among children annually.
New Data Predict Flu Season Will Be ‘Worse than Average’