No Time For Flu

15 09 2016

We’re launching our national educational campaign “No Time For Flu.” Hooray!

The campaign sounds the alarm about the dangers of flu, and alerts the public to the need for everyone six months of age and older to be vaccinated against influenza to prevent transmission of the disease.

NoTimeForFlu

Flu sweeps around the world each year, and is a contagious and potentially deadly viral infection that can be dangerous for anyone—healthy young adults, pregnant women, babies, and seniors.

Commonly known as flu, influenza is marked by some or even all of these symptoms:

  • Fever or feeling feverish/chills (not everyone experiences fever)
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue (tiredness)
  • Vomiting and diarrhea (more common in kids than adults)

“Some people infected with flu feel achy and tired, or they might have a sore throat, cough, or fever. They might even have a runny or stuffy nose. Many flu symptoms are similar to cold symptoms, which is why people sometimes mix them up and think it’s no big deal, just a cold,” said Trish Parnell, director of PKIDs.

Flu symptoms can last for days and are usually gone by the end of two weeks.

Flu viruses are transmitted in various ways—even with a kiss. Or, an infected person can cough, sneeze, or talk and spray tiny infected droplets into the air. Those droplets are then breathed in through the nose or the mouth of anyone nearby.

An infected person can also cough, sneeze, or talk and spray tiny droplets into the air, which then plop onto tables, or doorknobs, or other surfaces. Individuals later touch those surfaces and get the droplets on their hands. When those same hands touch the nose, mouth, or eyes, the droplets are transferred from the surface to the body, and transmit the virus.

An infected person can transmit the flu virus even before he or she starts to feel ill.

The CDC states that every year in the United States, on average:

  • 5% to 20% of the population gets the flu;
  • more than 200,000 people are hospitalized from flu complications, and;
  • about 36,000 people die from flu.

Flu doesn’t treat everyone the same. It can lead to pneumonia or perhaps, in children, sinus or ear infections. It can make an existing medical condition such as asthma much worse, and one can even die from flu

The fact that flu can take perfectly healthy individuals and kill them in a matter of days is the most confounding aspect of infection.

PKIDs’ “No Time For Flu” campaign reaches out through social media platforms and a website, www.pkids.org/flu, to educate the public on flu and how to prevent infection.

Through the use of videos, posters, and fresh informative materials, the public’s questions about flu are answered with clarity, and the need to use immunization and clean hands as strong tools to prevent infection is made clear.

“It’s so easy to catch the flu, and so easy to prevent it. Plan ahead, roll up your sleeve, and protect yourself and your loved ones,” said Ari Brown, MD, pediatrician and author of Baby 411 book series.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) recommends that everyone 6 months and older get an annual flu vaccination. There are rare exceptions, and an individual’s healthcare provider will be the person to address those issues.

NOTE: For the 2016-2017 flu season, CDC recommends that only the injectable flu vaccines be used, and not the nasal spray flu vaccine. Ongoing studies are determining the effectiveness of the nasal spray vaccine.

Because the flu strains change each year, an annual vaccination which matches the existing strains is required.

Please visit our site and use the images and other materials to encourage your community to immunize against flu.





Flu And Pregnant You

21 07 2016

Pregnant women are harder hit by flu than women of the same age who are not pregnant. Their symptoms are usually more severe, there are more hospitalizations, and they’re at higher risk of premature delivery or even death.

Although the infection doesn’t travel from the woman to her fetus, if the mom-to-be is infected, her infection may indirectly hurt the fetus. pixabaybelly

A premature delivery may mean the baby is too small, or underdeveloped. It can even mean death for the baby. If fever is present, mom’s infection can also lead to an assortment of abnormalities in the baby.

Why is this? Well, we can’t say for sure.

Part of a pregnant woman’s immune system is changed, or weakened, during pregnancy. This happens so that the woman’s body won’t attack the fetus as a foreign invader.

This altered immune state may allow a flu virus to attack, causing harm to the pregnant woman.

It’s also possible that part of the immune response is actually boosted during pregnancy, causing an increase in inflammation in the lungs when a pregnant woman is infected with a flu virus.

This in turn may be causing the increase in death and illness found in some flu-infected pregnant women.

The fact that pregnant women’s organs are squished may also increase the risk of pneumonia or other problems. Also, because of the increased blood volume, a pregnant woman’s lungs are a little “wetter” and less capable of resisting a severe infection.

Could be, may, might — that’s not what we want to hear. We want definite reasons so that we can use definite means to prevent all of this.

Unfortunately, it’s just not that simple.

If you’re pregnant, be extra cautious when it comes to flu. Call your provider as soon as you have symptoms — early treatment makes a big difference.

Symptoms may include:
•    Fever
•    Chills
•    Fatigue
•    Cough or sore throat
•    Runny or stuffy nose
•    Muscle or body aches, headaches
•    Vomiting and diarrhea (although this is more common in children)

CDC recommends that if you are pregnant and have any of these signs, you should call 911 right away:
•    Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
•    Pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen
•    Sudden dizziness
•    Confusion
•    Severe or persistent vomiting
•    High fever that is not responding to Tylenol® (or store brand equivalent)
•    Decreased or no movement of your baby

CDC recommends that individuals six months of age and older be immunized each year against flu.

Immunization and clean hands are the two best tools to prevent infection. Check with your healthcare provider to see about staying up-to-date on your immunizations.





Why We Celebrate National Influenza Vaccination Week: December 6 – 12

3 12 2015

As the holidays approach, parents start to think of all the items they need to check off their to-do list: making travel arrangements, gift shopping, and sending holiday cards. What might not be top-of-mind for parents is protecting their children against influenza (flu) this season.

While most people tend to think about the flu when kids go back to school in the fall, influenza generally tends to peak in January or later and activity can last all the way through May.

We recognize December 6-12 as National Influenza Vaccination Week for this exact reason: if you or your children haven’t yet received the flu vaccine, there is still time to protect your family from this serious infectious disease. It is important to get vaccinated before influenza hits because it takes about two weeks after vaccination to be fully protected.

While anyone can get the flu, children tend to have the highest rates of infection. There is no way to know when or who influenza will strike, and no way to tell how a child’s body – healthy or otherwise – might handle this infection. For some, it can be mild, but for others, it could mean hospitalization or even death.

Despite the fact that getting vaccinated is the most effective way to keep yourself, your family, and your community free from flu this and every season, I continue to see many parents put stock into popular myths about influenza or the vaccine.

To help you make informed decisions about your families’ health, I’ve debunked the top five myths about influenza and the vaccine below:

  • Myth: Flu vaccination is not necessary each year.

Fact: Vaccination is the first, and most important, step to protect your entire family against influenza each year. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends annual vaccination for everyone 6 months and older. In fact, the immune protection from the flu vaccine declines over time, so vaccination is necessary each year to ensure complete protection.

  • Myth: You or your child can get the flu from the influenza vaccine.

Fact: The short answer is no; you can’t get the flu from the vaccine, whether you receive the injection or nasal spray. Influenza vaccination is safe, effective, and time tested. The influenza vaccine contains virus strains that are either inactivated (as in the injected vaccine) or weakened (as in the nasal spray) and matched to the most commonly circulating influenza viruses that year.

  • Myth: If your child is healthy, he or she does not need to get the influenza vaccine.

Fact: Even healthy children are at risk for getting sick from influenza. Because immunity to the vaccine weakens, annual vaccination is a critical step to stay healthy. The CDC recommends that children aged 6 months through 8 years of age who did not receive at least one dose of the vaccine last season, should get two doses of vaccine approximately four weeks apart. (Check with your child’s health care provider to see whether your child needs one or two doses.)

  • Myth: The flu is nothing more than just a bad cold or the “stomach flu.”

Fact: Influenza should not be confused with a bad cold or “stomach flu.” Influenza is more serious than the common cold and can cause high fever, head/body aches, coughing for days, and severe fatigue for up to two weeks or more. It is estimated that an average of 20,000 children under the age of 5 are hospitalized due to influenza complications.

  • Myth: You should not receive the flu vaccine if you’re pregnant.

Fact: Influenza vaccination is the best and safest way for pregnant women to protect themselves from the flu. Pregnant women are more prone to severe illness from the flu, including hospitalizations and even death. Because children under 6 months of age can’t receive the flu vaccine, pregnant women who get vaccinated pass their immunity to their newborn baby.

During NIVW, I encourage those who have not been vaccinated yet to do so now.

To learn more about the importance of pediatric influenza vaccination, please visit www.PreventChildhoodInfluenza.org. I hope that you and your family have a happy and healthy holiday season.

By Dr. Carol J. Baker, Chair of NFID’s Childhood Influenza Immunization Coalition and Professor of Pediatrics, Molecular Virology and Microbiology at Baylor College of Medicine





Flu Then and Now

12 12 2013

The CDC came out with a lot of flu info today. Here’s a rundown on the highlights with a link to the rest at the end of the post:

CDC says that during last year’s flu season, 45 percent of the U.S. population aged 6 months and older was vaccinated against flu.

Influenza vaccination during 2012-2013 prevented 6.6 million illnesses, 3.2 million medical visits and 79,000 hospitalizations. Overall, this resulted in 17 percent fewer illnesses, medical visits, and hospitalizations than would have happened without flu vaccination.

The numbers are big, but the percentage is small. We need to increase the numbers of those vaccinated, and we need to come up with a more effective vaccine.

CDC estimates that during 2012-2013, there were 31.8 million flu-associated illnesses, 14.4 million medically attended illnesses, and 381,000 hospitalizations in the United States.

As for this year, CDC is recommending that those who have not yet been vaccinated do so. It takes about two weeks after vaccination for the body to develop immunity.

Most years, the flu season in the US peaks between January and March, which is reason enough to get immunized in December.

This year looks to be typical. Get vaccinated now and save yourself and your family the misery of infection.

The recommendation is that everyone six months of age and older get immunized against flu.

Visit the CDC Flu website for more info: http://www.cdc.gov/flu/





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.





Cold + Dry = Flu

26 11 2012

My middle schooler loves to report on the various illnesses of her classmates. On any given day, she says that half of those children not in school are suffering from flu—self-reported, but still.

They may be too sick for school, but they do manage the brave yet desperate text now and again to share their misery with their friends.

I doubt that all of these kids have influenza, but some probably do. As much as it irritates me, I have to admit that my mother was right about cold weather being a factor in catching a virus. At least she was right about the flu virus.

Turns out, influenza is transmitted more easily in cold, dry weather.

Dr. Peter Palese and colleagues did a study and found that it wasn’t the kids crowding together in school that caused a run of flu, because they’re in school in September and May and there’s no flu in the northern hemisphere at that time.

Dr. Palese also found that there’s little flu in the tropics, where it’s hot and humid.

What the scientists discovered was that the flu virus is most easily transmitted in cold, dry weather.

Unlike the cold virus, which is transmitted by touch (direct contact), for instance through a handshake, the flu virus floats in the air and is inhaled. The colder and drier the air, the longer the virus can float and stay viable.

Another factor is that the lower humidity dries out our nasal passages, which allows the inhaled virus to stick more easily than when we have our nasal barriers up and functioning properly.

A warning: temperatures don’t have to plummet to 10⁰ F for the virus to stay viable. The study indicated that 40⁰ F was more than adequate for excellent transmission of the virus.

So what can you do? Get vaccinated to prevent influenza, and keep your hands clean and away from your mucous membranes (around the gums, eyeballs, and nose) to prevent the transmission of other germs.

And wait for spring!

By Trish Parnell

Image courtesy of Atomische





Flu Season is Here

24 10 2012

Flu season has begun. It’s been nasty in other parts of the world, and could turn that way here—it’s impossible to say how it’s going to play out.

Few of us think of flu as being a serious disease, but in the US, deaths each year range from 3,000 to an astonishing 49,000. About 200,000 people are hospitalized each year for influenza-related illnesses.

It’s not worth the risk. Everyone over the age of six months needs to get vaccinated each year unless a healthcare provider believes there’s a medical reason not to do so.

Symptoms of flu can include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue. Some people may also have vomiting and diarrhea.

If you’re not yet vaccinated, you can find a flu vaccination clinic near you with the flu vaccine finder at http://flushot.healthmap.org

For more information on flu, visit http://www.cdc.gov/flu