The Flu Strikes Back – 7 Free Online Tools to Guide You through the Flu Season

If you look around the office, it’s no surprise that more coworkers are out sick. Regions across the U.S. are experiencing an early influenza season, with activity elevated nationally.

Be informed and share these tools with your community to stay strong against the flu this season.

flu view scrnshot1. CDC Flu View  is a flu activity and surveillance site that provides weekly influenza surveillance in the Unites States. In addition to the website, its mobile app gives you options to: explore Influenza-Like Illness (ILI) Activity Levels across the US; view ILI trends over several weeks; and get on-demand access to state health department websites for local surveillance information.

2. CDC Influenza Application for Clinicians and Health Care Professionals gives the latest recommendations and influenza activity updates on your iPad, iPhone or iPod Touch (Android support will be added in a future update). The app will automatically update information and content when your device is connected to the Internet. With this application, you can:

  • View updated information on national flu activity
  • Find influenza vaccination recommendations endorsed by CDC and the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP)
  • Obtain information on diagnosis and treatment of influenza, including antiviral treatment recommendations by CDC and the ACIP
  • Obtain information on laboratory testing for influenza
  • Find CDC recommendations on influenza infection control
  • View videos of CDC subject matter experts discussing influenza topics
  • Order official CDC designed print products for posting in the workplace or distributing to patients.

3. MappyHealth is the winner of the “Now Trending – #Health in My Community” challenge hosted by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response, mines Twitter data to show diseases trending in communities. The data is presented through several visualizations which include maps and graphs. For more information on MappyHealth, see our interview with them here.

google flu trends scrnshot4. Google Flu Trends  aggregates search terms in real time to estimate flu activity around the world. Google notes on their Flu Trends page that searches using flu related terminology have a close correlation to people having actual flu symptoms, according to a study published in the journal Nature. The current map (as of 1/17/13) of the U.S. shows mostly “intense” flu activity.

5. Flu Near You and Vaccine Finder are administered through HealthMap of Boston Children’s Hospital in partnership with the American Public Health Association and the Skoll Global Threats Fund. Flu Near You is a popular tool among the public health community and gives a weekly reporting of influenza like symptoms (also an open data set), and shows where people are reporting symptoms within their community. A component of Flu Near You is Vaccine Finder which helps users find locations offering flu shots. Per the website, Flu Near You allows the user to do the following:

  • Complete quick surveys to advance our collective understanding of the flu
  • See flu activity in your area at the regional or state level
  • Explore flu trends around the world with Google Flu trends
  • Use the Flu Vaccine Finder to find nearby locations offering flu shots or nasal spray flu vaccine
  • Connect to local public health links
  • Receive customized email disease alerts at your location
  • Learn more about flu news, information, and resources at flu.gov
  • Explore the RSS feed on updates on nearby flu outbreaks and related flu news
  • Browse the Disease Daily to discover summaries of important outbreaks and expanded coverage through the Outbreaks 101 news section

6. Flu.gov is a Department of Health and Human Services site that has all the resources you need from print materials to widgets you can add to your website. Flu.gov provides information on symptoms, treatments, and vaccination locations for influenza.

7. Flu Defender is the third place winner of CDC’s Flu App Challenge and is a iOS app that raises awareness about influenza while providing useful information on: vaccine finder, flu activity, symptom identifier, etc. The app uses the following data sources: CDC Weekly Flu Activity Report, RSS Feed of Influenza Updates, RSS Feed of Influenza Podcasts, CDC.gov/flu website and print materials, CDC Flu Twitter feed and the Flu.gov website.

Do you know of other free online flu tools? Let us know by leaving a comment.

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