NY hospitals use 'flu dashboard' to fight outbreak

- The flu outbreak continues to be one of the most troubling realities across the United States. And the peak of the flu season has yet to come. Nationwide, 53 children have died since October. Every state is showing influenza activity.

More than 11,600 influenza cases have been confirmed in New York State through January 27.

Northwell Health announced a real-time tracker giving healthcare providers a heads-up as to where the flu is and what supplies are needed. The so-called biosurveillance program is known as "flu dashboard."

The idea is to mobilize everything from personnel to masks and Tamiflu to hospitals or ambulatory centers where an uptick is spotted. Northwell on Long Island, in New York City, and in Westchester County are participating.

The breadth and speed of the program set it apart. The hospital's data comes from its own labs, which means flu tests take 2 hours to process. The system is updated every 24 hours. By comparison, the state health system and the CDC's database usually take seven days.

The more data that become available, the more reactive the hospitals can be. Ultimately, this bio-surveillance program will be used to combat a whole host of outbreaks and epidemics far beyond flu season.

This year's flu vaccine is 30 percent effective. But the folks at Northwell said their data show that all flu strains seen in the northeast and at Northwell Health are covered by the current flu vaccine. So if you haven't gotten a flu shot you should definitely get on because it still offers a good amount of protection.

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