WASHINGTON (CBS DC) – January U.S. flu reports have reached the highest level since monthly Gallup tracking of the illness began in 2008.
An average of 4.7 percent of Americans self-reported having the flu the day before being surveyed last month. This is an increase from the 3.2 percent who reported having the illness in December 2012.
On any given day in January, Americans were more likely to report having the flu in January than they were during the peak months in any of the past four recorded flue seasons. The previous highs each flu season had an average of 3.3 percent of respondents stating that they had the flu “yesterday” in February of 2008-09 and the 2010-11 seasons.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has reported similar findings as Gallup.
In tracking clinically confirmed cases of influenza in all 50 states, the CDC reports that the percentage of people visiting their healthcare providers for flu-like illnesses had a range of 4.8 percent to 4.4 percent from Jan. 5 to Jan. 26 this year.
Gallup’s Healthways Well-Being Index asks 500 Americans each day whether they had a cold or the flu “yesterday.” Gallup noted that there is the possibility that the average of daily cold and flu cases is underestimated because those who were sick the day before may be less likely to respond to Gallup’s phone survey inquiries.
Americans reporting they had a cold in January also reached a five-year high.
On average, 10.8 percent of Americans reported having a cold on the day prior to being interviewed, up from 9.9 percent in December. The percentage of daily cold reports in January is still on par with peak months in past years.
There were also certain demographics that were more likely than others to be affected by the flu.
Continuing a common trend, Hispanics were the most likely to report having the flu in January (11.8 percent). At 13.8 percent, Hispanics are also among the groups most likely to report having a cold in January. This is similar to the 14 percent of respondents who have ever been diagnosed with asthma.
Lower-income Americans were also more likely than middle or higher income Americans to report having the flu with a rate of 6.5 percent being affected by the flu. Among smokers, 5.7 percent reported having the flu and 13.4 percent said they have a cold.