Fighting the Flu Year Round
May 22, 2013

You would think that by this time of year the influenza season in the United States would be far from over.  Sadly, last week’s flu activity proves otherwise.
Although the amount of flu in the U.S. has been decreasing, there was still an additional pediatric death reported last week, bringing the total number of pediatric deaths from influenza this season up to 139.  Out of the 2,416 specimens that were tested and reported just last week, 124 (5.1%) were positive for influenza.  In reviewing the cumulative data from this current season, it’s also noted that the rate of laboratory-confirmed influenza-associated hospitalizations this season has occurred among 44 per 100,000 people.
When you factor in the likelihood of additional unconfirmed cases, you can see that – despite what many people may thinkthe flu can be dangerous.  And the dangers don’t just lie with those who have underlying medical conditions.  This year, 46% of the children hospitalized with the flu had no identified underlying medical conditions.
Can you imagine how devastating it must be for families to lose their perfectly healthy children to influenza? 
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOne family, whose lives where forever changed when they lost their four-year old daughter Amanda, is currently spearheading a Challenge Campaign to help provide funds to Families Fighting Flu and create a new public awareness campaign called Stay in the Game.  This campaign is an ambitious effort to educate others by means of print, broadcast and social media which will focus on the seriousness of influenza and the importance of annual vaccination, particularly among pregnant women, new moms, families, educators and health care providers.
In order to fulfill the expectations for this campaign, they must secure an additional $30,000 in funds by July 1st.  So, for every donation made to Families Fighting Flu between now and July 1st, Amanda’s parents Alissa and Richard Kanowitz, have generously offered to match funds, dollar-for-dollar, up to $15,000 in order to secure the $30,000 they need.  If you would like to contribute a tax-deductible donation for their Stay in the Game campaign, as I have done, simply visit their website here.
Unfortunately, while the Kanowitz family and many other Families Fighting Flu members continue their monumental efforts to increase influenza vaccinations, states like Wisconsin are trying to make it easier for healthcare workers to forego flu vaccines.  Despite the research that suggests influenza vaccination among health care workers is a critical way to reduce the transmission of the flu, as well as flu related illness and death, Representative Jeremy Thiesfeldt of Wisconsin is currently sponsoring a bill that would restrict employers from requiring workers to get flu shots.
While the bill was allegedly drafted after complaints from workers who were fired on account of refusing the shots, it is disturbing to know that these health care workers don’t feel it is part of their job responsibility to help reduce the transmission of influenza in every way possible.  As hospitals, nursing homes and other health care agencies are tasked with the challenge of protecting patients and promoting good health, laws like the one being considered in Wisconsin may actually interfere with an employer’s ability to reduce the likelihood of influenza transmission, especially among extremely vulnerable populations like the sick and elderly.
So folks it’s up to us – concerned citizens, parents and co-workers – to help ensure that the public realizes the dangers of influenza and takes the necessary steps to help prevent it through seasonal influenza vaccinations.  We can take action by supporting strong immunization policies and legislation, and we can give to organizations like Families Fighting Flu.  Please consider making a donation and sharing this video below to help fund the fight against the flu.
[youtube=http://youtu.be/XOb6jRocP5M]


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