A few years back, I bought $300 worth of food and water to store in the basement in case some terrible bird flu hit and we couldn’t leave the house for a week or two. We’ve eaten the good stuff bit by bit and a lot of what is left is now well past its prime.
Even though you don’t hear much about the bird flu anymore, I still believe some sort of infectious pandemic is the single greatest threat to humans, so perhaps it is time to restock my basement.
In the meantime, for the hypochondriac who loves data, the C.D.C. and google.org have competing influenza-surveillance web sites. The C.D.C. has a very detailed weekly flu report, which even describes the antigenic breakdown of the strains of flu that are found. According to the C.D.C., there is essentially no flu activity at the present time in the U.S.
That doesn’t stop people from thinking they’ve got the flu, however, as evidenced by google.org’s Flu Trends page. Google measures flu activity by the number of flu-related searches that take place, and these searches are starting to rise (for more details, see yesterday’s Times article).
Historically, the C.D.C. data and Google data trend quite closely.
There hasn’t been a really bad flu season since 2004. Is that because more people are getting flu shots, or is it just chance?