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Southern California Flu Trends: What Do Google Searches Reveal About The Epidemic?

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Officials have confirmed that a La Habra, Calif. man is now the second confirmed flu death in Orange County. He died in the last week of December, the same month a Fountain Valley man died of the flu, reports ABC 7.

There has only been one flu death in Los Angeles County so far. California's flu season usually picks up in December and peaks in February or March.

Despite the deaths, California, Mississippi and Hawaii are the only three states that have (so far) avoided the nationwide flu epidemic. For other metros across the United States, flu infections have reached emergency proportions. From LA Daily News:

Massachusetts reported 18 deaths this season, and Boston declared a state of emergency. Meanwhile, Chicago hospitals were turning ambulances away, because emergency departments were inundated with patients suffering from influenza, according to published reports.

California health officials are advising people that it's not too late to get a flu shot -- an important defense against the disease as incidences continue to increase.

“California is seeing an accelerated increase in flu activity over the past few weeks,” said Dr. Ron Chapman, director of the California Department of Public Health in a statement Friday.

“There is no shortage of vaccine in California and it is not too late to get vaccinated," the statement continued. "Our flu season may not peak for several more weeks, so I encourage everyone to get vaccinated to protect not only themselves, but those with whom they come into contact.”

Enter your zipcode at to see where you can get immunized.

In addition to county and state health department tallies, Google's flu trends tracker has also emerged as a reliable way to measure incidences of flu infection. The search engine has discovered a relationship between searches for terms related to flu symptoms with actual flu infection numbers. And since Google is such a behemoth, they've released worldwide reports on flu-related search terms.

Below, you'll find screenshots (taken Jan. 11, 2013) of flu search term reports for all the cities in Southern California where Google's information is available. The charts reveal that Los Angeles and San Diego are suffering the most from the flu right now, as flu-related search terms are reaching the "intense" level. West Hollywood has the least searches.






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