Science and Health

Living In A Big City Can Change How And When You Get The Flu

A new report looks at six years of data from hundreds of reported flu cases, and finds the size of where you live could affect if you get sick.

Living In A Big City Can Change How And When You Get The Flu
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Your immune system isn't the only thing that determines whether you'll get the flu this season. New research shows the city you live in can affect how and when you get sick, too.

Researchers analyzed six years of data from doctor's offices across 600 U.S. regions to see if a city’s size, infrastructure or transportation affected the spread of influenza.

Person getting a flu vaccination

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They found in the largest and most interconnected cities, the flu spread pretty evenly over time, even during the early and late parts of flu season when the weather isn't optimal for transmission. More people moving around in the city gave the flu more chances to spread.

In smaller cities, cases were concentrated during peak flu season. Their smaller populations were less likely to mix around, so transmission depended more on usual flu season weather variables like humidity.

Researchers say even though the data in this study is a bit old (2002-2008), their findings could still help policymakers come up with health initiatives before this year’s flu season picks up speed. Last year was the deadliest flu season in more than four decades, the CDC says. This year, the agency recommends you get your flu shot by the end of October.