Flu season is here again and 47 states are reporting "widespread" infection activity according to the latest report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and unfortunately Colorado appears to be one of the many states expected to be hard hit.
Googles Flu Trends tracker ranks Denver with "intense" infection activity, the highest ranking Google applies to its aggregated search term data for flu season, and Colorado Springs with "high" activity, but shows the entire state as "intense."
"Google Flu Trends uses aggregated Google search data to estimate flu activity," the search behemoth notes about its flu activity ranking methodology. "We've found that certain search terms are good indicators of flu activity."
So the bad news is that Colorado is ranked as "intense" but the worse news is that nearly the entire country is as well as illustrated by this terrifying Google map.
The other bad news is that Colorado's flu activity is spiking right now and is the worst spike in flu activity in at least six years -- Google's data only stretches back to 2006:
What's worse is that The Denver Post reports that vaccine shortages are hitting the Denver metro area currently as flu cases surge and more people seek out the shot and hospitalizations are ahead of average.
On average, Colorado usually sees about 750 hospital cases, however already in the current 2012-13 season, Colorado has seen 506 flu-related hospitalizations, according to The Denver Post.
As anyone who's ever gotten it can attest, flu manifests with fever, sore throat, cough, runny nose and fatigue. Even though the symptoms are unpleasant, the flu is generally not dangerous to most healthy people, who will recover within two weeks, the CDC reported. However, complications can occur -- like pneumonia, bronchitis or other infections. People who are at an increased risk for this include pregnant women, children, elderly people, and people who have other pre-existing conditions.
The CDC recommends that everyone ages 6 months and older get a flu shot every year to be protected from the flu, particularly people in high-risk groups. (However, some people should not get a flu shot, including people allergic to eggs and people who have had Guillain–Barré Syndrome; for more information on who should or shouldn't get the flu shot, click here.)
USA Today reported that the effectiveness of this year's flu vaccine is at 62 percent.
This year's flu season is one of the earliest in the U.S. over the last 10 years, Reuters reported.
A Gallup report also released today seems to reflect this trend, with 3.2 percent of people in the U.S. saying in December that they had the flu the day before. Gallup researchers noted that this percentage is typically not seen until February, and is a higher percentage for December since Gallup started tracking this in 2008.
And not only is it earlier than usual, it's more severe than usual, especially compared to last year's mild flu season. "In the past 10 years we have seen just two or three like" this year's flu season, CDC's Tom Skinner told the New York Daily News.