Flu outbreak, forecasting disease and weather

(ABC7/AP) Sunny with a chance of flu? That's what some health scientists are thinking, as they study the weather for clues about how to predict disease outbreaks.

A growing wave of computer models factor in rainfall, temperature or other weather conditions to forecast disease. In one recent study, scientists said they could predict more than seven weeks in advance when flu season was going to peak in New York City.

Health officials are excited by this kind of work and the idea that it could be used to fine-tune vaccination campaigns. But some experts note that outbreaks are influenced as much, or more, by human behavior and other factors as by the weather.

At Washington Adventist Hospital in Takoma Park, there is a rapid increase in numbers of flu cases at the ER.

So far 15 patients who were admitted tested positive for flu. At this time last year, there were none.

Their sister hospital, Shady Grove, says they're between 15 to 30 flu patients above their average.