Going Viral: Tracking Influenza 2013, and Test-Your-Immunity Quiz

Friday Jan 18 | BY |
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FluAre you at risk for the flu? Here’s how to track it in your state, with tips for staying well.

The 2012 fall flu season was very mild. Was it the calm before the viral storm? I warned of higher levels for winter and spring 2013. It looks like we’re on the uphill ride of the viral rollercoaster, and nowhere near the peak.

If you look at Google Flu Trends, we’re in the midst of an outbreak that is shaping up to be one of the worst on record, maybe even worse than the bird flu and swine flu pandemic scares.

Current Flu Trends
According to the CDC, doctor visits for flu related symptoms are already double their usual levels. But government statistics are at least a week behind. Here’s where Google comes in. In fall 2008, Google.org—the company’s nonprofit arm—unveiled Flu Trends. The site scans millions of Google searches from around the world to track flu activity in real time, or almost, but that’s a lot better than the CDC.

If Flu Trends turns out to be accurate, the CDC’s Michael Jhung says this year’s influenza season could become the worst flu outbreak in decades. The Google algorithm works by counting the number of flu-related searches and by weighting specific search topics according to their value as a predictor of CDC reported doctor visits. Certain data have more weight than others; for example, Google has found that searches for antiviral medications are only weakly correlated with the CDC’s findings. But searches for influenza complications produce better, statistically significant, results.

Remember, however, that statistics are not biological phenomena. The numbers come after the biological facts. That’s one reason by the CDC lags in reporting. Viruses are a very complicated system of interactions between the environment, ecological changes, animals, and humans. What looks like a lot could fizzle out. What doesn’t seem like any thing to worry about, turns into a storm.

How is Your State Doing?
No matter how bad it sounds, and though there will likely be more flu cases between January and April 2013, it’s only seasonal influenza, not a dreaded pandemic strain. The dominant strain so far this year is Influenza A, H3N2, not the scary “swine flu” H1N1.

To track the level of flu cases in your area, first look at Google Flu Trends. Then look at the CDC webpage. You’ll also be wise to check out your state’s department of health webpage, where you can find specific information for your area.

During a bad flu season, and according to Flu Trends, this one is shaping up to be a tough one, it’s best to be proactive. First, learn the difference between a cold and the flu. A cold is generally milder, without fever, and often there is no fatigue, and it lasts about a week. Symptoms of the flu can be severe, with some strains causing sickness for 3-4 weeks.

Cold Versus Flu

Cold and Flu

Test Your Viral Immunity
Next, test your viral immunity. Score yourself: Each question is worth 10 points. 100 points is excellent. 80-90 is very good. 70 is just passing. 50-60 points mean you need a viral immunity workout. Less then 50 means your viral immunity is low and you may be highly susceptible to pandemic influenza. Get started on a serious plan to enhance your viral immunity.

  1. I get less than two colds or ordinary flu viruses a year.
  2. I don’t have allergies or asthma, and don’t have lung disease.
  3. I am between the ages of 15 and 50.
  4. I take antioxidant vitamins and minerals like vitamin C and E daily.
  5. I exercise regularly at least three times a week.
  6. I eat 4-5 servings of fresh fruit and vegetables daily.
  7. I drink less than 2-4 glass of alcohol each week.
  8. I don’t smoke.
  9. I get 7-9 hours of sleep each night.
  10. I don’t have a high stress lifestyle.

Tips To Avoid Getting Sick

    The best way to beat the flu is to not catch it. Keep the following tips in mind during the coming tidal wave of seasonal influenza.

  • Wash your hands with warm water. Allow plenty of time for the water to rinse off the viruses from your skin. Ordinary soaps and detergents don’t kill influenza virus, but help remove dirt and grease that might keep the viruses attached to the skin.
  • Dispose of used tissue properly.
  • Wash clothes frequently in hot water with detergent.
  • Keep frequently touched objects like phone handsets, computer keyboards and mice, doorknobs, and arm rests wiped down with an antibacterial solution. (You can use antibacterial essential oils.)
  • Wipe down flat surfaces like countertops, desks, and tables where viruses can land.
  • Turn your head away from others and cover your mouth when you cough.
  • When you’re sick, if you have to go out or be around others, consider wearing a mask to prevent exhaling infected air.

Learn More

Google Flu Trends
Beating the Flu

Dr. J. E. Williams


Dr. Williams is a pioneer in integrative and functional medicine, the author of six books, and a practicing clinician with over 100,000 patient visits. His areas of interest include longevity and viral immunity. Formerly from San Diego, he now resides in Sarasota, Florida and practices at the Florida Integrative Medical Center. He teaches at NOVA Southeastern University and Emperor’s College of Oriental Medicine.

Visit Dr. Williams’ Website: https://drjewilliams.com/

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  1. Deb says:

    How about keeping vitamin D levels high? I used to be sick a lot in the winter, even when I got the (non mercury)flu shot back in 2006. I was sick for weeks with a bad case of coughing and laryngitis that year. Then I learned about D and started supplementing and gave up on the shots altogether.( I do take about 5-10,000 iu several days a week) The first (2007) year I stopped supplementing too early and got sick in May when I thought I was safe. After that I kept my D levels high all winter and spring and haven’t had a cold or flu since then. I did also change my diet to a mostly organic raw vegan one for a couple of years, and now I am more of a flexatarian, eating fish 2-3 times a month, small amounts of organic dairy, but not every day, as it tends to thicken the mucous where I believe the bacteria can then breed, also high in organic fruits and vegs-usually about 9 or more a day, raw and cooked. I don’t drink alcohol or eat the processed junk food I used to eat when I was sick all of the time. Have to admit that I am not that obsessive about washing my hands all of the time, but I was taught that it is about having good internal immunity by healthy living, more than keeping the outside of the body perfectly pure. Hoping this keeps working for me. I have really been glad not to have those nasty illnesses.

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