4 Facts You Didn’t Know About the Flu

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Have you or anyone in your home gotten the flu this season? This year, the flu has been on a rampage, infecting many of those in its path and causing fevers, coughs, body aches, or other dreadful symptoms that keep people out of commission for at least a few days.

With so many people getting the flu this season, are we going through some sort of flu epidemic? According to published information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “the United States experiences epidemics of seasonal flu each year…Flu activity most commonly peaks in the U.S. between December and February. However, seasonal flu activity can begin as early as October and continue to occur as late as May.”

Using information from the CDC, along with a Gallup survey on U.S. flu and cold reports and a publication from the University of Utah Healthcare, we’ve gathered a few surprising facts and statistics that you should know about the flu this year.

1. Lower-income individuals are more likely to report having the flu.

Did you know that people who earn less than $36,000 per year are more likely to report having the flu? Gallup found that 6.9% of people in this group said they had the flu in December, and a surprising 15.1% said they had a cold.

As income rose, the number of reporting cold and flu cases fell. Among those who earn between $36,000 and $89,999, 3% of them said they had the flu in December, and 10.7% said they had a cold. In the highest income group — those who earn over $90,000 — 3% said they got the flu, but only 8.1% said they had a cold. This means that cold and flu cases were cut in half, when the highest income group was compared to the lowest earning group. And apparently, most years produce similar findings.

2. Other demographics impact flu reports, too.

As you may expect, those with children (5.8%) report more flu cases than those without children (3%). But aside from having children — and having all of those germs that leave the schoolyard and enter the home — other demographic factors come into play as well.

For instance, those who live in the west are more likely to get the flu than any other geographic region, with 5.3% of westerners reporting that they had the flu last month, and 18.3% reporting that they had a cold.

Those in their 30s and middle-aged individuals are up to six times more likely to report having the flu than those over the age of 65. Younger individuals — between the ages of 18 and 29 — also have lower rates, with less than 2% saying they had it in December.

3. Flu reports are excessively high this year, but not as high as you may think.

Gallup found that 1 in 25 Americans (4%) said they were sick with the flu on any given day this past December. This is one of the higher rates the research site has found over the past seven years, when it first began flu tracking. During the last week of December in 2014, 5.9% of doctor’s visits involved flu-like symptoms.

The 4% reporting rate is not the highest rate, however. The all-time monthly high percentage is 4.7%, and it occurred in January of 2013. This means that during that time, about 1 in 20 people experienced the flu on any given day.

People are getting colds in record numbers this season, however. In December, around 1 out of 9 people (11.6%) reported that they “were sick with a cold yesterday.” This is the absolute highest percentage Gallup has ever seen in seven years of tracking.

4. The flu costs Americans a ton of money.

America loses a lot of green because of the flu. Just how much? Well, when all is said and done, the flu causes the U.S. economy to lose around $90 billion each year.

A few examples of those costs are in the workplace. Employers pay hefty costs, in the form of lost productivity resulting from the 70 million work days we miss each year, medical treatments, and other costs. An individual who gets the flu pays a couple hundred dollars in many cases — an average of $135 for a doctor visit and medication, and another $92 per year on average if that individual doesn’t have paid sick-leave.

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