The U.S. has seen 23 percent more flu cases this year compared to last year’s influenza season, though flu activity is still below normal pre-pandemic years, according to data collected by the Walgreens Flu Index.
According to the flu index, which includes data through the week ending on Oct. 9, Nevada leads the U.S. in the number of flu cases reported this year, followed by Mississippi and Texas.
The market area with the most flu activity the week of Oct. 3 was Las Vegas which, according to a statement from Walgreens, is potentially because it is a top tourist destination.
The company also said the higher flu activity nationwide may be a result of increased face-to-face interaction and the reduction in preventive measures in some regions.
A number of communities in Texas were also high on the flu activity list, in addition to areas in Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee and Ohio.
Southern areas are showing the most widespread flu activity so far this season, according to Walgreens, which is in line with trends seen over the past two flu seasons.
“It’s early in the flu season, and flu activity remains low compared to a normal flu season, but the Centers for Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend getting a flu shot by the end of October and before flu spreads in local communities,” Walgreens wrote in a statement.
Walgreens tracks information on the number of flu cases in the U.S. by examining retail prescription data for antiviral medications that are used to treat the viral infection across its locations nationwide.
The company said it was launching the index to “help communities track flu activity in their area and serve as a reminder to get an annual flu shot.”
The elevated number of flu cases comes after the U.S. saw influenza plummet last season, despite warnings that the intersection of flu season and the COVID-19 pandemic could create a public health disaster.
As of April, data from the CDC showed that fewer than 2,000 Americans had tested positive for the flu this year, according to clinical laboratory results and public health labs.
At that same time last year, just as the pandemic was beginning, more than 290,000 people had tested positive for the viral infection.
Still, because hospitals are already overcrowded with COVID-19 patients, there is concern in some areas that a bad influenza season could be disastrous.