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Around this time every year we start to see signs around our local pharmacy and ads on the TV urging everyone to get their flu shot. How important is the flu shot and how does it work?

Big Data Meets CDC

The flu is a highly contagious respiratory illness that affects the nose, throat and lungs. It is an extremely unpleasant illness that can range from mild to fatal. The flu is also a very smart virus that adapts to previous vaccines and forms new strands to survive. It is because of these transformations that the Center for Disease Control and Prevention must produce a new vaccine every year.

In order for the CDC to make new vaccines that are customized to the upcoming flu virus they must know what to protect against. This is where Big Data comes in. The CDC receives about 700,000 patient symptom reports a week. They take these symptoms and analyze them to determine where the  previous vaccine failed and pinpoint the virus’s new strands.

This sort of data also allows the CDC to predict when the peak of flu season is and who is most vulnerable to the virus. Past seasons have shown that flu season is typically from November to March but has shown to peak in February. The data has also shown that elderly people or people with certain immune disorders are most likely to catch the nasty virus. This information is extremely valuable in keeping this illness contained. Big Data allows the CDC to keep up with the virus and do its best to protect people from getting sick.

Thanks to the communication between hospitals and the CDC we can keep down the number of flu cases and hopefully maintain a healthier population.

To read more about how Big Data is aiding in the field of healthcare check out this article on The Patient To Doctor Ratio In Today’s Hospitals.

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