Stay Healthy This Winter!

30 09 2013

Stay Healthy This Winter

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What’s New With Flu?

26 09 2013

CDC released lots of data today on last year’s flu season. This will help to inform all of us as we look at the coming season and determine our health messaging targets.

Take a look . . .

Flu vaccination is the best protection available against influenza.  All persons 6 months and older should receive a flu vaccination every year to reduce the risk of illness, hospitalization, and even death.

The 2012-13 influenza season is a reminder of the unpredictability and severity of influenza.  The 2012-13 season began early, was moderately severe, and lasted longer than average.

More children than ever before received a seasonal flu vaccination during the 2012-13 season.

  • 45.0% of people in the United States 6 months and older were vaccinated during the 2012-13 season,  less than half of the U.S. population 6 months and older.
  • Among children, coverage was highest for children aged 6-23 months (76.9%) with large increases in vaccination for children 5-12 years old (4.4 percentage points higher for the 2012-13 season compared to the 2011-12 season) and teens 13-17 year old (8.8 percentage points higher for the 2012–13 season compared to the 2011–12 season).
  • Among adults, coverage was highest for adults aged 65 years and older (66.2%) and lowest among adults aged 18-49 years (31.1%).
  • Among children, coverage was highest among non-Hispanic Asian children (65.8%), Hispanic children (60.9%), non-Hispanic black children (56.7%), and non-Hispanic children of other or multiple races (58.5%). Coverage among non-Hispanic white children was lower at 53.8%.
  • Among adults, differences in coverage among racial/ethnic populations remain, with coverage among adult non-Hispanic blacks (35%) and Hispanics (34%) far lower than their non-Hispanic white counterparts (45%).

Coverage by Age:

Coverage for children 6 months through 17 years of age was 56.6% in the 2012-13 season, an increase of 5.1 percentage points from the 2011-12 season.  State-specific flu vaccination coverage for children 6 months through 17 years ranged from 44.0% to 81.6%.

  • Coverage for children decreased with age:
    • 76.9% for children 6-23 months
    • 65.8% for children 2-4 years
    • 58.6% for children 5-12 years
    • 42.5% for children 13-17 years

• Coverage increased in the 2012-13 season:

    • Children 5-12 years: an increase of 4.4 percentage points from the 2011-12 season
    • Children 13-17 years: an increase of 8.8 percentage points from the 2011–12 season
    • Changes in coverage were not significant for other age groups

Coverage for adults aged 18 years and older was 41.5% in the 2012-13 season, an increase of 2.7 percentage points from the 2011-12 season.  State-specific coverage ranged from 30.8% to 53.4%.

  • Coverage for adults increased with increasing age:
    • 31.1% for adults 18-49 years
    • 45.1% for adults 50-64 years
    • 66.2% for adults 65 years and older
  • Coverage increased in the 2012-13 season:
    • Adults 18-49 years: an increase of 2.5 percentage points from the 2011-12 season
    • Adults 50-64 years: an increase of 2.4 percentage points from the 2011–12 season
    • Adults 65 years and older: an increase of 1.3 percentage points from the 2011–12 season
  • Among adults 18-49 years of age with at least one high-risk medical condition (asthma, diabetes, or heart disease), coverage for the 2012-13 season was 39.8%, an increase of 3 percentage points from the 2011-12 season coverage estimate of 36.8%  State-specific coverage ranged from 17.9% to 58.8%.

Coverage by Sex:

Children (6 months-17 years)

  • There were no differences in coverage for male and female children.

Adults (18 years and older)

  • Coverage was higher for females (44.5%) than for males (38.3%).

Coverage by Race/Ethnicity:

Children (6 months-17 years)

Coverage for Asian children (65.8%) was significantly higher than all other racial/ethnic groups.

  • Coverage for non-Hispanic Asian children (65.8%), Hispanic children (60.9%), non-Hispanic black children (56.7%), and non-Hispanic children of other or multiple races (58.5%) was significantly higher than for non-Hispanic white children (53.8%).
  • Coverage for non-Hispanic American Indian/Alaska Native children (52.5%) was similar to that for non-Hispanic white children (53.8%).
  • There were significant increases in coverage from the 2011-12 season for non-Hispanic white children (6.2 percentage points), non-Hispanic Asian children (7.6 percentage points), and non-Hispanic children of other or multiple races (8.5 percentage points).
  • Coverage for non-Hispanic black, Hispanic, and non-Hispanic American Indian/Alaska Native children did not change from the 2011-12 season.

Adults (18 years and older)

Coverage among adults aged 18 years and older increased across all racial/ethnic groups except for American Indian/Alaska Native adults and adults of other or multiple races in which coverage did not change.

  • Among adults, coverage for non-Hispanic Asians (44.8%), non-Hispanic whites (44.6%), and non-Hispanic American Indians/Alaska Natives (41.1%) was higher than coverage for non-Hispanic adults of other or multiple races (38.0%), non-Hispanic blacks (35.6%), and Hispanics (33.8%).

There is an opportunity to raise awareness of the important benefits that can be gained by increased vaccination among children and adults.

  • Continued efforts are needed to ensure those at higher risk of flu complications (i.e. elderly, young children, and persons with chronic health conditions) are vaccinated each year.
  • Access to vaccination should be expanded in non-traditional settings such as pharmacies, workplaces, and schools.
  • Health care providers should make a strong recommendation for and offer of vaccination to their patients and improve their use of evidence-based practices such as vaccination programs in schools and WIC settings and client reminder/recall systems.
  • Immunization information systems, also known as registries, should be used at the point of care and at the population level to guide clinical and public health vaccination decisions.

Pregnant women and healthcare workers

During the period of October 2012-January 2013, 50.5% of pregnant women reported they received the influenza vaccination before or during their pregnancy.

Overall, 72.0% of health care workers reported having had a flu vaccine for the 2012-13 season, an increase from 66.9% vaccination coverage during the 2011-12 season.





Here Come the Germs!

24 09 2013

I love my kids. I do. But, may I just say, entre nous, that my heartbeat slows and I’m immersed in a narcotic sense of freedom when they toddle off to school each September.

That euphoric bliss lasts about two weeks. Maybe. Then come the colds, the aches, the lethargy, the sniffles, the who-knows-what.

Does your family experience the same thing? Here’s what’s going on:

  • In the US, kids under 17 years of age experience over 50 million colds each year. M-m-million!
  • Kids miss almost 22 million (there’s that “m” word again) days of school due to colds.
  • Diarrhea is no slouch when it comes to affecting the health of our kids—it’s a big contributor to missed school days.
  • Bacteria and viruses can survive on desktops, doorknobs, walls, water spigots, cafeteria trays, shoes, backpacks, purses, and other surfaces for minutes or even hours. A few even longer, depending on the environment. The germs lurk on surfaces, waiting for unsuspecting hands to slide by and pick them up.
  • Some kids and teachers don’t cover their coughs and sneezes, and they don’t clean their hands when it’s important to do so. Depending on the germ, it may float in the air and wait to be inhaled, or drop on a surface and wait to be picked up, or transfer from germy hands to surfaces or the waiting hands of others.

What can we do? We can’t completely protect our kids from the germs in the world (and there’s no way I’m homeschooling), so we teach them how to protect themselves and live with the fact that they’re occasionally going to pick up germs. Picking up germs is not a bad thing. That exposure helps strengthen the immune system and does other good things for the body that are best left to another blog post.

To keep illness down to a manageable level, share these tips with your family:

  • Wash hands with soap and water after coughing, sneezing, playing inside or outside, going to the bathroom, or touching animals, and before preparing or eating food and at any time that the hands look dirty. And, wash those hands as soon as you come home from school or, well, anywhere.
  • Use hand sanitizer in place of soap and water if no soap/water is available, but soap and water are preferred. Remember that hand sanitizer kills many germs, but only while it’s being rubbed onto the hands. Once it’s dry and the hand touches something germy even two seconds later, germs will live on the hands again.
  • Cough and sneeze into the crook of the elbow. Coughing and sneezing into tissues is OK, but not ideal. The tissues are thin and the germs blast right through onto the hands, requiring an immediate hand cleaning. Plus, the germs are more likely to escape the tissue and float around waiting to be inhaled, or drop onto surfaces, waiting to be touched.
  • Don’t share with others anything your mouth touches. This means don’t share forks, spoons, water bottles, food, drinking glasses, straws, lipstick or any other makeup, come to think of it, and don’t use anything that’s touched another person’s mouth, such as their pen or pencil or any item already listed. This is not a complete list, just one to get you thinking about how germs can be passed from one person to another.
  • Keep your hands away from your eyes, nose, and mouth, as these are entryways for germs.
  • Walk around your home with a disinfecting wipe and clean doorknobs (interior and exterior), light switches and the wall area around them if the wall surface will hold up to the moisture, keyboards, remote controls—anything around the house that gets touched a lot.
  • Call your provider and your child’s provider and make sure the entire family is up-to-date on immunizations.

Share your tips in the comment section. Let’s try to have a healthy school year!

 

By Trish Parnell

 

 





Flu Season 2013 – 2014

5 09 2013

We’re getting ready for flu season!

We had our first National Influenza Vaccine Summit call today, and here’s what’s going on:

Scott Epperson from the CDC said that the summer in the US has been quiet for seasonal flu, as we’d expect. The 2013/2014 flu season officially begins at week 40, on 29 September, 2013.

The Southern Hemisphere is at the peak of their season. They seem to have a mix of strains, with no one strain particularly dominant or problematic. There’s a mix of severity among countries and the bottom line is, we can’t say (yet) what to expect in the Northern Hemisphere this coming season.

There will be quadrivalent flu vaccines available this season, but it sounds like there will not be enough doses for everyone. Many of us will continue to use trivalent, at least this year.

The ACIP flu vaccine recommendations should come out on 20 September in the MMWR.

That’s it for now!

 

By Trish Parnell