DEERFIELD, Ill., October 19, 2023 - Walgreens launched the 2023-2024 Walgreens Flu Index today to help communities track flu activity in their area and serve as an important reminder to take preventive measures, including an annual flu shot. Walgreens has produced this online, interactive tool for 10 flu seasons to show trends in flu activity week-over-week.
The Walgreens Flu Index shows that, to date, overall flu activity is 66% lower compared to the start of the 2022-2023 flu season, with activity increasing 13% over the past week. During the week of Oct. 9, flu activity was the highest in Puerto Rico, Hawaii and Louisiana. Several areas in the southern U.S., including Harlingen-Weslaco-Brownsville- McAllen, Texas, Lafayette, Louisiana, and Beaumont-Port Arthur, Texas, were designated the top markets with the most widespread flu activity so far.
“After several atypical flu seasons, this year’s Flu Index is showing a more gradual ramp-up of flu activity closer to the pre-COVID norm,” said Kevin Ban, MD, Chief Medical Officer, Walgreens. “While it’s early days and flu season is always unpredictable, our historical data suggest this could be a return to a typical two-wave flu season where activity starts to peak in December and reaches its highest point in February, rather than the single peak we saw last year, which was earlier but lower than the norm.”
Despite the unusual patterns of flu activity last season, the virus still had a major impact on communities and the healthcare system, driving a similar level of illnesses, hospitalizations and deaths as in pre-pandemic years and contributing to the ‘tripledemic’ of flu, COVID-19 and RSV in the U.S. Getting a flu shot remains the best way to protect against the virus, and potentially serious outcomes of influenza. The annual flu shot has been shown to reduce the risk of having to go to the doctor with flu by as much as 40% to 60%.1
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that everyone 6 months and older get a flu vaccine by the end of October.2 However, if individuals cannot get vaccinated until later, the CDC recommends still getting the flu shot because significant flu activity can continue through May.3 It takes about two weeks after receiving the vaccine for antibodies to develop in the body and provide protection against the flu.
“It’s just as important as ever to get your annual flu shot, and now is the time to do it,” said Dr. Ban. “With COVID-19 surging, pandemic precautions continuing to ease, and people gathering in person more frequently this fall and winter, keeping up with all CDC-recommended immunizations is the best way to keep you and your loved ones protected as we head into the holidays and peak flu season. As our pharmacy teams are working tirelessly to serve our communities, Walgreens makes it easy for the whole family to get annual flu shots, the updated COVID-19 vaccine and the RSV vaccine for those eligible, all in one visit.”
Flu and COVID-19 vaccines are available at no cost to patients with most insurance or government assistance. To schedule a vaccination appointment, visit Walgreens.com/ScheduleVaccine, use the Walgreens app or call 1-800-WALGREENS.
Walgreens also offers a variety of convenient, low-cost testing and treatment options to simplify the path to recovery for individuals experiencing respiratory symptoms, including a rapid 2 results in 1 test for COVID-19 and influenza A and B that are now available at most locations nationwide. To learn more, visit Walgreens.com/Testing, use the Walgreens app or call 1-800-WALGREENS.
Top 10 DMAs with Highest Flu Activity
1. Harlingen-Weslaco-Brownsville-McAllen, Texas
2. Lafayette, La.
3. Beaumont-Port Arthur, Texas
4. Puerto Rico
5. New Orleans, La.
6. Honolulu, Hawaii
7. El Paso, Texas (Las Cruces, N.M.)
8. Columbus-Tupelo-West Point-Houston, Miss.
9. Corpus Christi, Texas
10. Anchorage, Alaska
Top 10 States and Territories with Highest Flu Activity
1. Puerto Rico
About the Walgreens Flu Index®
The Walgreens Flu Index® is an online, interactive tool that ranks the top markets and states for flu activity in the United States, including Puerto Rico, and the top markets and states showing the largest increases in flu activity week-over-week. The index is updated weekly each Tuesday and is available through an online interactive map linked here. Users can search by market or state to see where their geographic area ranks for flu activity in any given week and how current flu activity compares to last season. Through the time-lapse feature of the Walgreens Flu Index®, users can see how current flu activity compares to activity from last season.
Every week, Walgreens tracks the incremental change of antiviral medications used to treat influenza across thousands of Walgreens and Duane Reade locations nationwide to create the Walgreens Flu Index®. Data for the Walgreens Flu Index® is analyzed at state and geographic market levels to measure absolute impact and incremental change of antiviral medications on a per store average basis and does not include markets in which Walgreens has fewer than 10 retail locations.
The index is not intended to illustrate flu severity, but rather, based on this methodology, to show which populations are experiencing the highest incidence of influenza within the United States and Puerto Rico each week. Low-high rankings are designated based on a normal flu season, defined by an average of the last five flu seasons nationwide. For example, red regions on the Walgreens Flu Index® map indicates a much higher than normal flu season, while green regions indicate a much lower than normal flu season.
Walgreens (www.walgreens.com) is included in the U.S. Retail Pharmacy and U.S. Healthcare segments of Walgreens Boots Alliance, Inc. (Nasdaq: WBA), an integrated healthcare, pharmacy and retail leader with a 170-year heritage of caring for communities. WBA’s purpose is to create more joyful lives through better health. Operating nearly 9,000 retail locations across America, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, Walgreens is proud to be a neighborhood health destination serving nearly 10 million customers each day. Walgreens pharmacists play a critical role in the U.S. healthcare system by providing a wide range of pharmacy and healthcare services, including those that drive equitable access to care for the nation’s underserved populations. To best meet the needs of customers and patients, Walgreens offers a true omnichannel experience, with fully integrated physical and digital platforms supported by the latest technology to deliver high-quality products and services in communities nationwide.
1 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Vaccine Effectiveness: How Well Do Flu Vaccines Work?” February 28, 2023. https://www.cdc.gov/flu/vaccines-work/vaccineeffect.htm
2 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Who Needs a Flu Vaccine.” August 25, 2023. https://www.cdc.gov/flu/prevent/vaccinations.htm
3 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Flu Season.” September 20, 2022. https://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/season/index.html