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What Signals the Start of Flu Season?

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One might think that flu season starts with the arrival of vaccine in the local pharmacy or provider’s office.  Others might believe that flu season in the U.S. begins with the first case of lab verified flu.  While flu viruses are most common during the fall and winter months,  influenza activity can begin as early as September or October and last as late as May.

The CDC monitors certain key flu indicators (like outpatient visits of influenza-like illness, lab results and reports of flu hospitalizations and deaths). When these indicators rise and remain elevated for a number of consecutive weeks, than “flu season” is said to have begun.

In preparation for flu season, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases (NFID) kick off their annual flu vaccine campaign each September with a special press conference which emphasizes the importance of flu vaccination.

The reality is that influenza is difficult to predict. No one knows when it will peak, how many people will suffer or die, or even how effective the flu vaccine will be.

However, what experts do know is that the flu is inevitable, yet preventable.  Every year there is suffering, hospitalizations and even deaths, but much of that could be prevented if more people were protected through annual vaccination.  2017 Flu News LBE

 

Flu is a fickle and unpredictable virus. 

This was the message Dr. Bill Schaffner delivered during the news conference last week.  Since 2010, flu-related hospitalizations in the U.S. typically range from 140,000 to 710,000 each year, killing between 12,000 and 56,000 people each year.  While the exact number may differ drastically from year to year, this just highlights how dangerous and unpredictable influenza is.

Now is the ideal time to get a flu shot. You want to be vaccinated weeks before possible exposure, because it can take about two weeks post-vaccination for your body to build the proper immune response from the vaccine.

Everyone should consider flu vaccination – even healthy individuals.

Flu Fact of the Week

The flu vaccine is recommended for everyone 6 months and older.  It not only helps to reduce the risk of flu illness and serious complications for the person getting vaccinated, but it also helps to reduce the amount of flu circulating in the community.  By reducing the incidence of flu, we can help protect those who might be more susceptible to serious flu illness, such as young infants too young to get vaccinated, pregnant women and older individuals who may be more susceptible to flu infection, and individuals with certain medical conditions, like heart disease, asthma and diabetes, who are at increased risk of complications from flu.

Too often people mistakenly believe that if they are healthy they don’t need a flu vaccine.  Or, they don’t realize how dangerous the flu can be and consider it akin to a bad cold.  However, influenza is a contagious respiratory illness with no cure.  Once the virus takes hold, all we can do is treat the symptoms.  While antiviral drugs are recommended to try to lessen symptoms and shorten the time one is stick by a day or two, the reality is that influenza must run it’s course.  This is why Dr. Northrop could do nothing but watch while his otherwise healthy adult sister succumbed to influenza and died.

Why choose vaccination if it can’t guarantee you won’t get flu?  

We often hear people explain that they won’t get a flu shot because it doesn’t guarantee that they won’t get the flu.  While it is true that the flu vaccine isn’t a 100% guarantee, the annual flu vaccine is  typcially about 40-60% effective.  Therefore, getting your annual flu vaccine means you will reduce your chances of getting the flu by 40% to 60% as compared to someone who does not get vaccinated. It also means that flu vaccination can significantly reduce the risk of flu-associated hospitalization and death (especially among children and older adults).

As an example, last year’s flu vaccine effectiveness was deemed to be approximately 42% effective overall.  While that may not sound overly impressive, it is estimated that flu vaccination last year prevented about 5.4 million cases, 2.7 million flu-related doctor’s visits and 86,000 hospitalizations last season.  But last year only about 46.8% of the U.S. population 6 months and older received a flu vaccine. Now imagine if more people had been vaccinated. The CDC estimates that if overall flu vaccination coverage had been just 5 percentage points higher, another 490,000 illnesses and 7,000 hospitalizations could have been prevented.

What determines flu vaccine effectiveness?  

Read more…

It’s Easy to Find a Flu Vaccine with HealthMap Vaccine Finder

December 10, 2013 16 comments

PrintIt’s National Influenza Vaccination Week and  it’s likely that some people haven’t received their flu shots yet. You should know that flu season has officially arrived and some states have already begun reporting flu-related deaths.  So if a flu vaccine is still on your to-do list, don’t wait any longer.  The HealthMap Vaccine Finder is here to help.

VaccineFinderImageThe HealthMap Vaccine Finder is a free, online tool that connects the public to vaccine providers in their neighborhood. In recent years, the number of alternative locations to receive a vaccine has significantly increased and you’re not just limited to receiving vaccines from your primary care provider.

But how do you know what your other options are? And how do you know what vaccines you may need?   

Simply check with the HealthMap Vaccine Finder

The first tool you might use on the website can be found here or by clicking on the “What Vaccines Do I Need?”.  If  you know you need a flu vaccine simply fill out the “Flu Vaccines” quiz to receive a personalized list of the different type of influenza vaccines that are approved for use in people like you, based on your age, history, and risk factors. You can learn more about any of the specific vaccines by clicking on them. Once you’ve identified which vaccine is appropriate for you and your family, you can search for providers that offer that vaccine in your community. Of course, you should always talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before receiving a vaccine to ensure that you’ve made the right choice for you. Read more…

How do You Spook the Flu?

November 6, 2012 2 comments

Don’t let the dark side win. Get your flu shot!

Many parents still don’t realize that the seasonal flu vaccine is recommended annually for everyone 6 months and older.   To ensure people know that the flu vaccine is the best way to protect families against the flu, Every Child By Two asked their special parent advocates to help “Spook the Flu” last month.

Each parent was asked to share pictures of their own costumed cuties along with a catchy flu related tagline.  You may have noticed some of these photos on our Vaccinate Your Baby Facebook page.  From the “likes” and the comments we received over the past week, it’s obvious that the response was spook-tacular!

We are pleased to announce that the photo with the most “likes” will be awarded a $20 Amazon e-card, compliments of Every Child By Two.  Thanks to our winners, Erica Lemon and her little Darth Vader, the “Spook the Flu” promotion has helped families to realize that they can protect themselves from the flu  with the seasonal influenza vaccine.

Unfortunately, we never know for certain when the “dark side” will appear and the worst of the flu season will be upon us.  Even though the flu season may not peak until January or February, it has also been known to occur as early as October and as late as May.   This is why it’s important that we begin promoting flu vaccinations early in the season, reminding parents to schedule their family vaccinations sooner rather than later.   It’s also important to note that once vaccinated, it takes two weeks for your body to build up immunity against the flu.  Getting vaccinated now will help ensure you are protected when families travel and get together over the upcoming holiday season.

Additionally, with the untimely arrival of Superstorm Sandy in the northeast, those who are not yet vaccinated can only hope that their family will remain healthy during this stressful time while those that vaccinated early are surely relieved to have one less thing to worry about as they try to recover from widespread damages, flooding and power outages.

If you would like to discover ways in which you can help promote the benefits of immunizations and be included in future advocate actions like this year’s “Spook the Flu” contest, then be sure to visit the Vaccinate Your Baby website and click the red “Get Involved” tab in the upper right hand corner.

Each season, misconceptions about the flu and the flu vaccine run rampant. To learn the facts, visit the “Flu: Fact vs. Fiction” page created by Families Fighting Flu and Vaccinate Your Baby.  And to find a flu clinic near you, visit www.flu.gov and enter your zip code into the Flu Vaccine Finder.

Be sure this season to spread the word, not the flu!