If you have ever had the flu, you know how bad the symptoms can be. From sore throat, cough, aches, chills and high fever – it is not fun and can lead to more serious problems, even deaths in severe cases. In fact, the CDC estimates that from October 2018 to May 2019, there were 37.4 million-42.9 million reported influenza diseases and between 36,400-61,200 influenza deaths.
Read more: Where to get the flu shot this season
If these numbers are not enough for you to get the flu, just talk to someone who had the flu last year, and the chance is that they say they wish they would have been shot.
Getting the flu is a way to protect yourself, and you can also prevent exposure by avoiding areas with outbreaks by keeping track of flu activity in areas that you live or will visit. Keep reading to learn more about why you need to track the flu and how to do it.
Why you should track the flu
There are several reasons why you may want to keep track of the flu activity, mainly knowing when it is active in your area. If so, you want to be sure that you are vaccinated to prevent the risk of getting sick.
Knowing that there is flu in your area can also lead to you getting a vaccination sooner, according to Dr. Amesh Adalja, senior researcher at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security and expert in infectious diseases. "Tracking the flu is helpful to the public who are planning when to get their vaccination – they may have been delayed and knowing that influenza activity happening near their site can get them vaccinated," Adalja told CNET.
Adalja also said that tracking flu is important for community organizers, teachers, or people working in schools and event planners because some events and gatherings may not be ideal during a bad outbreak in a community.
"If you are in an area with an outbreak, it is important to be vaccinated and to practice good hygiene (often hand washing). If you have symptoms, it is important to seek evaluation, especially if you have uninterrupted fever, shortness of breath, are pregnant. or at high risk of flu complications due to pre-existing medical problems, "said Adalja.
Again, one of the best ways to actively prevent the flu is through immunization, but if you are looking for other ways to prevent it, tracking can help. This is especially important for people who cannot be vaccinated or have compromised the immune system.
How to track the flu
A variety of websites and apps provide flu tracking services that let you see where the flu is active. Some websites also provide predictions or "risk assessments" for your area in the future. Most of these sites are powered by data collected from official healthcare professionals, but a few (like Flu Near You) rely on crowd sourcing, and you can report your own symptoms directly if you wish.
Everyday Health Flu Map
Everyday Health Flu Map gives you the opportunity to enter your zip code and the system generates influenza risk and predictions for the upcoming season for your location. The map will tell you if your area is considered a moderate or serious risk in the next month.
Sickweather is an app that relies on "social media forecasts" to collect data on where the flu is active in metropolitan areas. The app then assesses how much risk there is in your area and can predict future trends.
Keep in mind that Sickweather uses crowd sourcing and social media to make his predictions, but according to the site, the information is "regularly correlated and validated against available data from the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC)."  Read more: