There's a good chance you or someone you know contracted the flu anytime between the winter of 2017 and spring of 2018—after all, it was one of the worst flu seasons on record in over a decade. And since healthcare experts have recently worked their way through that particularly viral strain of flu, they are good at recognizing signs that the annual sickness may be more challenging than ever. Early indicators of the power of this year's flu strain are pushing professionals to forecast a particularly rough winter for our health, especially for city dwellers living in Southeastern states, according to new data generated by Walgreens.
Image Source/Getty Images
Early tracking of flu cases is the key to stemming any regional or national outbreaks, which is why Walgreens' professionals are mining their patients' prescriptions data to release monthly flu indexes that illustrate where the flu hits hardest. According to Walgreens' first report, the flu activity in southern cities are largely increased compared to this time last year. The hardest hit among them is Lafayette, Louisiana, closely followed by neighboring New Orleans, and many other cities across the Southeastern U.S.
So far, residents living in these areas are forecasted to experience more flu cases than ever: the Harlingen-Brownsville metropolitan area in Texas; Baton Rouge, Louisiana; Montgomery, Alabama; Laredo, Texas; Waco, Texas; Victoria, Texas; the Tyler-Longview metropolitan area in Texas; and Las Vegas, Nevada.
A big indicator that this year's flu strains are more dangerous than others, according to the report, is the fact that Australia's flu season was reported earlier than ever and was particularly damaging, with upwards of 250,000 people reportedly diagnosed. Health officials in the United States adapted their recommendations to ask Americans to get vaccinated as early as September, but there has already been three flu-related deaths recorded across the nation, per Walgreens' index.
If you're interested in seeing when peak flu activity has reached your area, Walgreens will continually update their flu tracking tool throughout the winter; this year, the pharmacy has made 2018-2019 flu data available so you can get a better picture of how viral the flu has become. Officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advise that Americans get vaccinated as soon as possible, as it can take up to two weeks before the vaccine can adequately protect you from the virus itself. "Getting vaccinated later, however, can still be beneficial," the CDC shares. "Vaccination should continue to be offered throughout the flu season, even into January or later."