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Using weather forecasting technology to predict the flu

BOULDER, Colo. — A joint study by Columbia University and the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder concludes that flu outbreaks can be forecast just like the weather, by using models from past years.

“Seasonal influenza outbreaks can be predicted, in terms of timing and severity by using weather prediction techniques,” said Dr. Alicia Karspeck of NCAR. “Our study looked at the New York City area and found that by using data from the past six years, what we found was that we could predict to about seven weeks out, when and where outbreaks would occur.”

The information is mainly for public health officials who are in the business of notifying the public about flu outbreaks when they’re about to happen. It also helps them get vaccine moved to a particular area ahead of the outbreak.

The process only took a look at NYC and they caution those results will be different in other places like Miami or Denver.

At some point, if and when the study is expanded, weather forecasts will include flu forecasts so you’ll know when you need an umbrella… or a flu shot.