The 10 worst states for the flu

police in flu masks
Public Domain Policemen in Seattle wearing masks during the influenza epidemic. December 1918. (National Archives)

Here's where influenza hits especially hard, and what you can do to help protect yourself from it.

The flu is a monster. The contagious illness caused by influenza viruses has resulted in between 9 million and 45 million illnesses and up to 810,000 hospitalizations in the last decade. Since 2010, between 12,000 and 61,000 have died each year from the flu.

And that's nothing compared to 1918 to 1919, when an influenza pandemic killed more people in absolute numbers than any other disease outbreak in history. Recent research puts the death toll as probably 50 million, and possibly as high as 100 million. Adjusting for population, that toll today would be comparable to 175 to 350 million.

While thankfully we have learned a lot about the flu since those devastating early pandemics, it is still a beast. Looking at the numbers from the last decade, we can see that the last season for which there is confirmed data was a doozy.

Flu viruses are around all year in the United States, but ilnesses are most common during the fall and winter, with activity beginning to creep up in October and usually peaking in February.

Living in New York City, where winter is cold and people pack themselves tightly into moving metal boxes underground and sneeze on each other, I always figured we had it especially rough when it comes to catching the flu. But data from a report at Apartment Guide shows that New York isn't the worst place for the flu. And in fact, the states that are hit hardest are a bit of a surprise; they are generally ones with warmer weather and less people piled on top of one another.

The ranking relies on U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) February flu season numbers – then each state was assigned weighted scores for low, moderate and high flu outbreak weeks to determine the 10 worst states. Here is what they found:

10. NEW MEXICO
Weeks of high flu activity: 17
Weeks of moderate flu activity: 3
Weeks of low flu activity: 5

9. NEW JERSEY
Weeks of high flu activity: 14
Weeks of moderate flu activity: 8
Weeks of low flu activity: 5

8. ALABAMA
Weeks of high flu activity: 19
Weeks of moderate flu activity: 3
Weeks of low flu activity: 2

7. LOUISIANA
Weeks of high flu activity: 16
Weeks of moderate flu activity: 6
Weeks of low flu activity: 6

6. MISSISSIPPI
Weeks of high flu activity: 19
Weeks of moderate flu activity: 3
Weeks of low flu activity: 3

5. KANSAS
Weeks of high flu activity: 20
Weeks of moderate flu activity: 2
Weeks of low flu activity: 5

4. ARKANSAS
Weeks of high flu activity: 21
Weeks of moderate flu activity: 2
Weeks of low flu activity: 2

3. CONNECTICUT
Weeks of high flu activity: 19
Weeks of moderate flu activity: 8
Weeks of low flu activity: 2

2. OKLAHOMA
Weeks of high flu activity: 22
Weeks of moderate flu activity: 2
Weeks of low flu activity: 5

1. TEXAS
Weeks of high flu activity: 23
Weeks of moderate flu activity: 5
Weeks of low flu activity: 1

Meanwhile, New York was number 14 – and the best state for the flu was Maine, cold wintry Maine, with zero weeks of high flu activity, four weeks of moderate and two weeks of low. The flu is a fickle thing.

So what to do if you live in one of these super flu-friendly states? Or, actually, any state, given that the flu is so awful? The CDC says, the "first and most important step in preventing flu is to get a flu vaccine each year. Flu vaccine has been shown to reduce flu related illnesses and the risk of serious flu complications that can result in hospitalization or even death."

After that, employ commonplace illness-prevention strategies, like, avoid sick people and wash your hands not only frequently, but properly. (Here's how: Everything you need to know about the ‘DIY vaccine’ against illness.)

To see how your state ranked, visit Apartment Guide.

The 10 worst states for the flu
Here's where influenza hits especially hard, and what you can do to help protect yourself from it.

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