Headshot of Kevin Ban, chief medical officer, Walgreens; Image credit: Walgreens
Kevin Ban, chief medical officer, Walgreens; Image credit: Walgreens

Influenza cases have risen by 23% this season when compared to 2020, with Nevada experiencing the highest recent numbers, according to a flu activity index kept by Walgreens.

The newly released index “shows higher flu activity to date than what we saw last year during this same time, when we saw unprecedented low levels of flu due to people sheltering in place, wearing masks and record flu shots administered,” Kevin Ban, chief medical officer, said in a statement.

But flu activity continues to remain low when compared to pre-pandemic flu seasons, he added.

The interactive index uses retail prescription data for antiviral medications across Walgreen’s locations. The most recent data for Oct. 3 showed Las Vegas and Nevada at the top of states and markets for flu activity. This may be because Las Vegas is a top U.S. tourist destination in the United States. But increased face-to-face interaction and reduced preventive measures in certain regions may also have contributed to the upticks, the pharmacy retailer said. Several Texas communities topped the list, for example. 

Southern markets overall showed the most widespread flu activity this season, which is consistent with trends seen over the last two flu seasons, Walgreens noted.

And many of these Southern communities are composed of at-risk groups, the company added. 

“Many Southern regions showing incidences of flu also have large Black and Hispanic populations,” the company stated. “The Walgreens Flu Index underscores that some of the communities hardest hit by flu are also the most vulnerable.”

Black and Hispanic populations have lower rates of flu vaccination, experience higher rates of flu hospitalization and are at higher risk for flu-related complications, the company reported.