Audrey Weil

Monday, Feb. 22, 2016

Arizona leads the country in flu activity

Arizona has more than 5,000 reported cases of the flu, and Walgreens has ranked the state number one in flu activity for the past three weeks.

Health professionals say Arizona isn’t necessarily seeing much more activity than years past, but rather, peak activity is just occurring about a month later than usual. Even so, the true number of cases is most likely much higher than estimated.

“The number of cases are definitely underestimated because the cases that they look at are just people who have the flu and are treated with an antiviral medication. But there are so many people that have the flu that don’t even get treated with an antiviral,” Dr. Natasha Bhuyan with One Medical Group said. “There are thousands and thousands of people who have the flu and are never confirmed.”

Every week, Walgreens ranks the top ten states and cities for flu activity, and for the past three weeks, Arizona has ranked number one. Phoenix and Tucson now rank third and fourth respectively compared to the rest of the country.

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Experts say low flu vaccination rates in the state, how doctors keep track of the flu, or even the weather could be factors in Arizona’s high rates, but nothing can be certain.

“The only predictable thing about flu is that it’s unpredictable,” Arizona Department of Health Services Chief of Epidemiology and Disease Control Jessica Rigler said.

Not only is it hard to estimate the number of people infected and when they’re infected, but also who will be most affected.

“Some people get the flu and they recover without any medication or treatment. Other people get the flu and sometimes they’re young healthy adults but they’ll get the flu and end up in the intensive care unit,” Dr. Bhuyan said.

Sarah Meade said she always makes sure her kids get a flu shot, just in case.

“I don’t want them picking anything up from someone else and I don’t want them spreading it to anyone else either,” she said.

The Department of Health Services said it tracks flu from October to September, so even though Arizona is seeing high activity now, cases of the flu can happen anytime of the year.

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Flu Numbers Infographic

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