Want the flu? Move to Nevada

People living in Nevada were more likely to have the flu last year than residents of any other state. Meanwhile, on any given day in 2013, nearly one in 10 people in Montana said they had a cold.

That’s according to new information released last week by Gallup, outlining which states have the highest and lowest instances of U.S. adults saying they had the flu or a cold on any given day last year.

Overall, 2 percent of people nationwide said they had the flu in 2013. Nevada had the highest flu rate, with 2.9 percent of people saying they said they had the flu; that was followed by California (2.6 percent), New York (2.5 percent) and Texas (2.3 percent). Three of those states — California, Texas and Nevada — also had some of the highest percentage of residents without health insurance, according to a recent Gallup report.

(Via Gallup)
(Courtesy of Gallup)

On the other side of the coin, there was a three-way tie for the state with the lowest percentage: Vermont, South Carolina and cheery North Dakota all came in at 0.8 percent. (North Dakota has been among the states with the 10 lowest flu rates five of the last six years. No wonder they’re all so happy.)

(Source: Gallup)
(Courtesy of Gallup)

Meanwhile, 6.2 percent of people nationwide reported having a cold last year. The state with the highest percentage? Montana, with 8.2 percent, edging out Oregon (7.7 percent) and New York (6.9) percent.

(Source: Gallup)
(Courtesy of Gallup)

Arizona reported the lowest cold rates with 3.8 percent, while Kansas and Wyoming both followed at 4.2 percent.

(Source: Gallup)
(Courtesy of Gallup)

Gallup rounded up these statistics through telephone interviews last year (part of the same Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index survey that produced the list of the happiest states). The numbers can actually serve important public-health benefits, as officials can discover where they need to ramp up public-health campaigns or urge people to get flu shots.

Of course, these surveys rely on what people say when they’re asked if they had a cold or flu the day before. Someone could think they have the flu when they really have a cold or they could have mono and think they have the flu. Take Nevada and Texas. Both states had some of the highest flu rates and lowest cold rates, raising the question of how many people thought they had the flu when they had a cold or visa versa (which, again, is possible anywhere).

In any event, the overall numbers may be lower than they could be, because as Gallup notes, people who have the flu or a cold are less likely to want to complete a phone survey.

Now if you’ll excuse me, after all of this reading about colds and flus, I’m going to go jump into a swimming pool filled with hand sanitizer.

Mark Berman is a reporter on the National staff. He anchors Post Nation, a destination for breaking news and developing stories from around the country.
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Mark Berman | March 3