BALTIMORE - You know that sickness spreading around the office is a sign the flu is hitting more and more people. But you can track it in another way, watching it spread online through a state website, with no Purell needed.
Maryland's Department of Health and Mental Hygiene runs a special Flu Watch website . It breaks down the progress of the flu week by week, and by logging on you can watch it take off. According to their records, indicators of the flu begin to cross the state's radar the week of November 3 rd, with just a couple cases. At that point it was considered what they call "sporadic".
But in December, there's a marked change in progression, with the flu going from a "localized" problem to "widespread" status in just a few days, as outbreaks jump.
On the website, the state also tracks statistics related to influenza-like illnesses. Those went from "minimal" to "high" on an intensity scale over the course of just 21 days in December, with the latest report ending the week of December 29 th.
DHMH is able to map out their data and track the flu thanks to reports made by hospitals, lab testing done on patients who suspect they're sick and from reports supplied by people who may never even see a doctor. Marylanders can sign up to be part of the Maryland Resident Influence Tracking Survey . Through the program, they'll receive a weekly email that asks them whether they've experienced the flu or flu-like symptoms. Respondents can answer for their entire family.
Dr. David Blythe, a DHMH medical epidemiologist, says the grassroots collection of that data helps complement the reportable cases from other sources, "It's a different perspective so we have to look at all of this together to get the full context of what's going on in Maryland and throughout the United States."
To sign up for MRITS or take a look at the DHMH Flu Watch page, just click this link.