News Science The 10 Worst States for the Flu By Melissa Breyer Editorial Director Hunter College F.I.T., State University of New York Cornell University Melissa Breyer is Treehugger’s editorial director. She is a sustainability expert and author whose work has been published by the New York Times and National Geographic, among others. our editorial process Melissa Breyer Updated December 30, 2020 Policemen in Seattle wearing masks during the influenza epidemic, December 1918. National Archives / Public Domain Share Twitter Pinterest Email News Environment Business & Policy Science Animals Home & Design Current Events Treehugger Voices 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 people 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. Centers for Disease Control / Public Domain Flu viruses are around all year in the United States, but illnesses are most common during the fall and winter, with activity beginning to creep up in October and usually peaking through 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. Top 10 Flu Friendly States 10. NEW MEXICOWeeks of high flu activity: 17Weeks of moderate flu activity: 3Weeks of low flu activity: 5 9. NEW JERSEYWeeks of high flu activity: 14Weeks of moderate flu activity: 8Weeks of low flu activity: 5 8. ALABAMAWeeks of high flu activity: 19Weeks of moderate flu activity: 3Weeks of low flu activity: 2 7. LOUISIANAWeeks of high flu activity: 16Weeks of moderate flu activity: 6Weeks of low flu activity: 6 6. MISSISSIPPIWeeks of high flu activity: 19Weeks of moderate flu activity: 3Weeks of low flu activity: 3 5. KANSASWeeks of high flu activity: 20Weeks of moderate flu activity: 2Weeks of low flu activity: 5 4. ARKANSASWeeks of high flu activity: 21Weeks of moderate flu activity: 2Weeks of low flu activity: 2 3. CONNECTICUTWeeks of high flu activity: 19Weeks of moderate flu activity: 8Weeks of low flu activity: 2 2. OKLAHOMAWeeks of high flu activity: 22Weeks of moderate flu activity: 2Weeks of low flu activity: 5 1. TEXASWeeks of high flu activity: 23Weeks of moderate flu activity: 5Weeks 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. Reducing Your Chances of Catching the Flu 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. The 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. To see how your state ranked, visit Apartment Guide. View Article Sources “Disease Burden of Influenza.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Nuzzo, Jennifer B., et al. “Preparedness for a High-Impact Respiratory Pathogen Pandemic.” Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. “The Flu Season.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “The 10 Worst States for the Flu.” Apartment Guide. “Key Facts About Influenza.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.