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Predicting the Flu is now a Reality

December 11, 2014

Infectious disease experts at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health have figured out a way to forecast the flu. The team won a contest sponsored by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention called "Predict the Influenza Season Challenge."

To win, the team created a mathematical formula used for weather forecasting and applied it to flu data. Using real-time data they created a website that shows an interactive map of the United States that displays the severity of flu cases in cities across the country. It also lists incidence numbers and gives a prediction number for each city in the coming weeks. They also have a forecast graphic that will tell you when the flu will be at its peak for a particular city.

"This provides people a window into the future and what pathogens might be coming down the pike," said professor Jeffrey Shaman, who developed the tool with a team of infectious-disease experts. "It may help parents decide when to schedule their children's play dates or it may also help remind people to think about getting vaccinated for influenza" if they know that their city is going to be hit particularly hard during one week.

Hospitals could use the information to predict how much staff they need to handle a potential influx of cases or how many drugs they need to keep on hand.

Too see the map and read more, click here.

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