Why Is The CDC Ignoring Some State Swine Flu Numbers?

05.22.09 | Comment?

The CDC number for confirmed and probable cases of swine flu in the US should be over 6700 today. This is based on the numbers being reported by the state web sites (when available), which differ considerably in places from the CDC numbers. The CDC's own stance is clearly stated on their daily reports:

Because of daily reporting deadlines, the state totals reported by CDC may not always be consistent with those reported by state health departments. If there is a discrepancy between these two counts, data from the state health departments should be used as the most accurate number.

So, the 6700+ number is the more accurate one than the CDC's 5764. That is a thousand cases difference. The state number is more than 15% higher than the CDC's. Could that just be one day's worth of cases? Yes and no. Certainly, there have been a few hundred new cases each days, but a thousand in one day would be pretty high for where we are. Regardless, that is not entirely the case here. Some of the differences have been shown on the state web sites for several days and the CDC simply has not bothered to update their numbers to correspond.

For example, Texas is only reporting numbers on Tuesday and Friday. Today is Friday, but the CDC is still reporting last Friday's numbers with no sign of Tuesday's number, which showed an of 138 cases. Similar situations exist in other states.

Here are where the numbers are today. The second column is the CDC's numbers from yesterday. The third is either the state number or the CDC number, depending on which was higher. The fourth is the difference. The reason for the oddness in the third column is that some states are not putting their numbers on their web sites anymore; some never did.

State CDC
Alabama 64 66 2
Arkansas 3 3 0
Arizona 488 488 0
California 553 672 119
Colorado 55 59 4
Connecticut 59 102 43
Delaware 88 88 0
Florida 122 122 0
Georgia 25 25 0
Hawaii 30 40 10
Idaho 8 9 1
Illinois 794 794 0
Indiana 105 120 15
Iowa 71 73 2
Kansas 34 62 28
Kentucky 20 24 4
Louisiana 73 86 13
Maine 9 9 0
Maryland 39 39 0
Massachusetts 175 235 60
Michigan 171 175 4
Minnesota 39 44 5
Mississippi 5 7 2
Missouri 20 24 4
Montana 9 12 3
Nebraska 28 28 0
Nevada 33 33 0
New Hampshire 22 23 1
New Jersey 22 29 7
New Mexico 68 97 29
New York 284 333 49
North Carolina 12 12 0
North Dakota 5 6 1
Ohio 13 14 1
Oklahoma 43 57 14
Oregon 94 94 0
Pennsylvania 61 88 27
Rhode Island 8 9 1
South Carolina 36 36 0
South Dakota 4 4 0
Tennessee 86 94 8
Texas 0 3 3
Utah 116 133 17
Vermont 1 1 0
Virginia 23 23 0
Washington 411 517 106
Washington, D.C. 13 13 0
Wisconsin 766 1051 285

While most of the differences are pretty tiny, the bigger ones are significant and tend to be in the states where the virus is spreading the quickest.

As to why the CDC is not putting the latest information in their briefings, I am not sure. It certainly cannot be because they don't have the numbers. I am not even part of the medical community and I have the numbers. It can't be that they don't have the time to assemble the numbers. It took me a whopping half hour to get up to date numbers from the state web sites; if I were doing it regularly in a spreadsheet, it would have taken half that. This is what interns are for, people.

I am not going to go all tin-foil-hat on people and assume this is some conspiracy to keep us from knowing the true extent. The difference is conspicuous, but not insanely so. Nobody bothers covering up a 17% difference. As unpleasant as it sounds, I think we need to chalk this one up to either apathy or incompetence on the part of whomever is assembling these reports. Which is unimportant. The important lesson is to be aware of what the true situation is in your state and not just trust the first numbers you see to be up to date.

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