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For older adults, flu season tends to peak first in Nevada, last in Maine
Date:4/15/2010

BOSTON (5:00 p.m. EDT, April 15, 2010) An analysis of hospitalization records for adults age 65 and over found that seasonal flu tends to move in traveling waves, peaking earliest in western states such as Nevada, Utah, and California and working its way east. New England states such as Rhode Island, Maine, and New Hampshire tend to have the latest peak in seasonal flu, according to public health researchers at Tufts University in Boston. The researchers detected patterns between peak timing and intensity of seasonal flu. The findings may help healthcare providers prepare for flu outbreaks in this vulnerable population.

"Because the peak of seasonal flu runs its course nationwide in a matter of weeks, it is often too late to adjust resources including vaccinations and antivirals once the first outbreak hits. We have identified patterns in seasonal flu and developed a model that allows us to better predict outbreak peak timing. This research will enable public health officials and hospitals to better prepare for seasonal flu, and work to reduce the number of patients experiencing more serious complications of the flu," said senior author Elena Naumova, PhD, professor of public health and community medicine at Tufts University School of Medicine.

"Analyzing this comprehensive data set, we also found that flu seasons that peaked early tended to be more intense, meaning there were more cases of the flu in years with early seasonal peak," Naumova continued.

Despite the geographic distance between the earliest peaking state (Nevada) and the latest peaking state (Maine), the analysis of 13 flu seasons showed that the flu peaked in every state within a four week span. Nationwide, the average flu season peak occurred during the third week of January.

"We found that of the 9.7 million hospitalizations in the elderly that occurred annually, 1.03 million (10.5 percent) were due to pneumonia and influenza. Adults over the age of 6
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Contact: Siobhan Gallagher
617-636-6586
Tufts University, Health Sciences
Source:Eurekalert  

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