Is Flu Season Over Yet?

Is Flu Season Over Yet?

As leading news stories report “Flu Season is Peaking” in different areas of the country, how does this impact you and your patients?  If it’s peaked, is the threat over?  Hardly.  According to the CDC (http://www.cdc.gov/flu/weekly/summary.htm), last week held a particularly high proportion of influenza-associated hospitalizations and deaths in those 65 and older.   As of last week, 30 states (up from 24 from previous week) are now reporting “high activity” (click to see how your state is reporting) and 48 states (up from 47) are now reporting widespread influenza activity (click to see how your state is reporting).

Who should be vaccinated?

Everyone unless otherwise specified by a physician.  Potential exceptions may include:

  • People who have a severe allergy to chicken eggs.
  • People who have had a severe reaction to an influenza vaccination in the past.
  • Children younger than 6 months of age (influenza vaccine is not approved for use in this age group).
  • People who have a moderate or severe illness with a fever should wait to get vaccinated until their symptoms lessen.
  • People with a history of Guillain-Barré Syndrome (a severe paralytic illness, also called GBS) that occurred after receiving influenza vaccine and who are not at risk for severe illness from influenza should generally not receive vaccine. (http://www.cdc.gov/flu/keyfacts.htm#whoshould2)

What are “flu-related” complications?

Having the flu is bad enough but for many patients, the flu-related complications are much worse possibly resulting in death.  While reading the list below, think of how many of your patients do NOT fall into one of these categories:

  • Adults 65 years of age and older
  • Pregnant women
  • American Indians and Alaskan Natives seem to be at higher risk of flu complications
  • People who have medical conditions including:
    • Asthma (even if it’s controlled or mild)
    • Neurological and neurodevelopmental conditions, including disorders of the brain, spinal cord, peripheral nerve, and muscle such as:
      • cerebral palsy
      • epilepsy (seizure disorders)
      • stroke
      • intellectual disability (mental retardation)
      • moderate to severe developmental delay
      • muscular dystrophy
      • spinal cord injury
    • Chronic lung disease (such as COPD and cystic fibrosis)
    • Heart disease (such as congestive heart failure and coronary artery disease)
    • Blood disorders (such as sickle cell disease)
    • Endocrine disorders (such as diabetes mellitus)
    • Kidney disorders
    • Liver disorders
    • Metabolic disorders
    • Weakened immune system due to disease or medication (such as people with HIV or AIDS, or cancer, or those on chronic steroids)
    • People younger than 19 years of age who are receiving long-term aspirin therapy
    • People who are morbidly obese (Body Mass Index [BMI] of 40 or greater) (http://www.cdc.gov/flu/keyfacts.htm#whois)

Did You Know?

  1. A person can spread the flu to others 1 day before symptoms develop and up to 5-7 days after becoming ill.
  2. Most often flu is spread through airborne droplets from speaking, sneezing, and coughing.
  3. Even if you have already had the flu this season, you should still receive a flu vaccine – this is not chicken pox, you can catch it more than once a season.
  4. It’s not too late to protect yourself and your patients by receiving the flu vaccine.  As long as influenza is being diagnosed in your community, you and your patients are at risk. (http://www.cdc.gov/flu/protect/keyfacts.htm)

Final Thoughts

  • When educating your patients about influenza prevention, don’t forget the caregivers.  They are usually stressed with possibly weakened immune systems.  Where will your patients be if their caregivers become ill?
  • Click here to find fact sheets to share with your families and caregivers on how to care for someone with influenza in the home.

– Cindy Sun, HHQI Project Coordinator

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