Seasonal influenza ranks among the most serious recurrent public health threats in the US each year, killing an average of 36,000 people.
Normally, as the flu season gets underway during the September-October time frame, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) provide an invaluable service by keeping a close watch on the changing numbers of flu cases distributed around the country.
This year, however, the CDC flu tracking system is unavailable due to the ongoing shutdown of the federal government.
Direct Relief depends on CDC data about flu trends in order to understand how best to offer support to the national network of over 1100 safety net health centers and the patients who depend on them for essential healthcare.
Using analytic tools from software company Palantir, Direct Relief is integrating the best open source data available on flu trends, from Google and Healthmap.org along with background population data on risk factors including age and prevalence of respiratory illness, to get as clear a picture as possible of changing patterns of flu infection.
Every week throughout the 2013-14 flu season Direct Relief will be publishing an up-to-date seasonal influenza report based on open data, identifying key hotspots and frontline health centers in need of support.
Hopefully this report will also soon contain correlations with CDC verified trends when the federal government is open for business once more.