Google's Data Shows That This Year's Flu Season Is the Worst In a Long Time

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Stock up on the Pedialyte and Kleenex, while you still can.

reallygoodflu.gif

Data by Google, GIFing by Alexis Madrigal.

Look out world, this year's flu season is nasty. 

For the past six flu seasons, Google has predicted the severity of the annual plague based on the increase in flu-related search terms. The company's data matches up really well with the official Centers for Disease Control Statistics. So well that Google is now an official CDC partner; Google's a close-to-real-time warning signal, basically. 

And this year, that's bad news. Because if you look at that dark blue line above, you can see that 2012-2013 eclipses any of the previous six seasons, and it's still very early. Of course, it could be a year the viral hit peaks high but early, a la 2009-2010, or it could have a more traditional curve like 2007-2008. If it's the latter, a lot of people are going to get sick. 

Either way, though, this year is bad. Get your flu shot. Maybe it will help.

Update: why are things so bad this season? Well, we've got three different infections that cause flu-like symptoms right now, the New York Times reports. There are 1) the year's "standard" flu, H3N2, 2) a tough newish stomach bug, and 3) the worst outbreak of pertussis, "whooping cough," in 60 years. 

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Alexis C. Madrigal

Alexis Madrigal is a senior editor at The Atlantic, where he oversees the Technology Channel. He's the author of Powering the Dream: The History and Promise of Green Technology. More

The New York Observer calls Madrigal "for all intents and purposes, the perfect modern reporter." He co-founded Longshot magazine, a high-speed media experiment that garnered attention from The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and the BBC. While at Wired.com, he built Wired Science into one of the most popular blogs in the world. The site was nominated for best magazine blog by the MPA and best science Web site in the 2009 Webby Awards. He also co-founded Haiti ReWired, a groundbreaking community dedicated to the discussion of technology, infrastructure, and the future of Haiti.

He's spoken at Stanford, CalTech, Berkeley, SXSW, E3, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and his writing was anthologized in Best Technology Writing 2010 (Yale University Press).

Madrigal is a visiting scholar at the University of California at Berkeley's Office for the History of Science and Technology. Born in Mexico City, he grew up in the exurbs north of Portland, Oregon, and now lives in Oakland.

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