Fight Flu: Get the Facts

2 12 2010

(courtesy of CDC)

Fewer Than Half of Nurses and other Health Care Workers Get Vaccinated. Influenza is among the most common respiratory illnesses in the United States, infecting millions of people every flu season. Studies going back 30 years to 1976 show that seasonal flu-related deaths have ranged from about 3,000 people to more than  48,000 people. While every flu season differs, people die from flu every year. Since health care workers are on the front line to care for patients with the flu, you are more vulnerable to get sick and spread flu to your patients, colleagues, and family members.

Flu transmission from patients to health care workers, and from health care workers to their families, other patients, and staff members is well documented.1-4   Vaccination remains the single most effective preventive measure available against influenza and can prevent serious illness and death. High rates of vaccination among nurses and health care workers have been linked to improved patient outcomes5, 6, reduced absenteeism7, and influenza infection among staff.  Despite the documented benefits of flu vaccination of nurses and other health care workers, fewer than half of health care professionals receive an influenza vaccine each year. This low coverage jeopardizes the health of high-risk patients that you, as a nurse or health care worker, care for every day.  Influenza outbreaks have been documented in hospital wards, nursing home facilities, intensive care units, and bone marrow transplant units.  Protect yourself, your family, and your patients—get a flu vaccine.

FLU FACTS

FACT:  You cannot get the flu from the influenza vaccine. The flu shot does not contain live viruses, so it is impossible to get influenza from the vaccine, and the nasal spray contains virus strains that are too weakened to cause flu illness. Side effects may occur in some people who get vaccinated, such as mild soreness, redness or swelling at the injection site, headache or low-grade fever.  It can take up to two weeks from the time the vaccine is administered to provide immunity against flu. So, during the two weeks after vaccination, people can remain susceptible to influenza infection.  And, while the influenza vaccine does not prevent all influenza illnesses, the vaccine is generally 70-90% effective in adults younger than 65 years of age.

FACT:  Influenza is more than just a nuisance.  Influenza can be a serious and sometimes life-threatening disease. Influenza and its related complications can cause hospitalization and even death.

FACTThe influenza virus is unpredictable.  Flu viruses are constantly changing.  Therefore, a new flu vaccine is made every year to protect against the flu viruses that surveillance indicates will be most common. Because of this, it’s necessary to get a flu vaccination every year, even if you’ve had one or more in the past. The 2010-11 seasonal flu vaccine protects against three viruses, including the H1N1 virus that caused so much illness last season. Read the rest of this entry »





Pregnant Women and Infants: Flu Targets

15 11 2010

(courtesy of CDC)

The first and second U.S. deaths from the 2009 H1N1 pandemic were in a 22-month-old child and a 33-year old pregnant woman. These deaths were a sad sign of the toll this pandemic would take on young children and pregnant women. While pregnant women and young children have been considered at “high risk of flu-related complications” for years, 2009 H1N1 flu hit them really hard.

The risk from flu is greater for pregnant women because pregnancy can reduce the ability of the lungs and the immune system to work normally. This can be bad for both mother and baby. According to a study done during the first month of the 2009 H1N1 outbreak, the rate of hospitalizations was four times higher in pregnant women than other groups. Also, although pregnant women are about 1% of the U.S. population, they made up about 5% of U.S. deaths from 2009 H1N1 reported to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) from April 14 – August 21, 2009.

Young children, whose immune systems are still developing, are also at-risk for flu-related complications. Each year about 100 flu-related deaths in children are thought to occur in the U.S. During the 2009 H1N1 pandemic, more than 300 deaths in children were reported to CDC. CDC believes that many more deaths in children may have gone unrecognized or unreported.

Experts think the 2009 H1N1 virus will be around again this flu season. In fact, one of the three parts of this season’s flu vaccine will protect against the 2009 H1N1 virus. While CDC is now encouraging everyone six months and older to get vaccinated against the flu, there is a special message for pregnant women and parents: “Don’t pass up this easy way to protect yourself and your children against the flu,” says Dr. Anne Schuchat, Assistant Surgeon General of the U.S. Public Health Service and CDC Director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases.

“Getting a flu vaccine during pregnancy can reduce the risk of getting the flu while pregnant and after,” says Dr. Schuchat. “And babies younger than six months can get very sick from flu, but are too young to get vaccinated. The best way to protect them is to have their caregivers and close contacts vaccinated.”

Seasonal flu shots have been given safely to millions of pregnant women and children over many years.  Though there is no proof that thimerosal (a preservative) is harmful to a pregnant woman, their babies, or young children, some worry about it. So, as before, vaccine companies are making plenty of preservative-free flu vaccine as an option for pregnant women and small children.

Usually worse than the common cold, the flu can cause fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills, and weakness. Some people also have diarrhea and vomiting. Pregnant women and parents of children younger than two years of age should call their doctor or nurse right away if they, or their children, become sick. A doctor can prescribe flu antiviral drugs.

Vaccination continues to be the best protection. Get yourself—and all of your children 6 months of age and older—vaccinated against the flu to keep all family members healthy this flu season. One shot will last all flu season, even if you get it early in the season.

For more information, talk to your doctor or contact CDC at 1-800-CDC-INFO or www.cdc.gov.





Chronic health condition? Get a flu shot!

8 11 2010

(courtesy of CDC)

If you are one of the millions of Americans with a long-term health condition like asthma, diabetes, stroke, heart or lung disease, this important information about flu applies to you. When combined with your existing health condition, the flu increases your risk of becoming seriously sick, which could result in an unexpected and expensive trip to the hospital—or even death.

“We have known for years that flu is a serious disease, especially for people with certain chronic health conditions,” said Dr. Anne Schuchat, Assistant Surgeon General of the U.S. Public Health Service and CDC’s Director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases.

These health conditions include asthma (even if controlled by medication), lung disease, heart disease, neurologic conditions (like stroke and other conditions related to the nervous system, brain or spinal cord), blood disorders, endocrine disorders (like diabetes, both type 1 and type 2), kidney disorders, liver disorders or weakened immune systems.

The burden of flu on people with these conditions was demonstrated last flu season, as the world faced its first flu pandemic in more than 40 years. Most of the deaths from 2009 H1N1 were in people who had at least one health condition. People with long-term health conditions also were more likely to be hospitalized. CDC estimates that nearly 60 percent of children and more than 85 percent of adults hospitalized with 2009 H1N1 had one or more long-term health conditions or were pregnant.

Of those admitted to the hospital with 2009 H1N1 illness, asthma was the most common long-term health condition followed by diabetes, chronic cardiovascular disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, pregnancy, neurological disorders (including stroke or seizure disorders in adults), and neuromuscular disorders. People who were morbidly obese (extremely overweight) also appeared to be at higher risk for severe 2009 H1N1 in some studies.

Experts expect that 2009 H1N1 will be back next season along with other, regular flu viruses. The message is clear: people with long-term health conditions should take action to protect themselves against the flu by getting a flu vaccine. This season’s vaccine will protect against 2009 H1N1 and two other flu viruses. Safe, reliable flu vaccines have been made for decades, and you cannot get the flu from the flu vaccine.

Millions of Americans are impacted by these conditions, although many people don’t know that they have a long-term health condition. For example, diabetes impacts an estimated 23.6 million Americans, but 5.7 million people (24 percent of those who have the disease in the United States) don’t even know they have it. Heart disease affects an estimated 26.6 million Americans. And asthma affects 23.4 million Americans. Ask your doctor whether you have a health condition that makes you more vulnerable to flu. If you do, be sure you get a flu vaccine.

Symptoms of flu include fever (though not everyone with flu will have a fever), cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills, and sometimes diarrhea and vomiting.

Flu viruses are thought to spread mainly from person to person through the coughing, sneezing, or talking of someone with the flu. Flu viruses may also spread when people touch something with flu virus on it and then touch their mouth, eyes, or nose. Many other viruses spread these ways too.

For more information, visit www.flu.gov, www.cdc.gov/flu, or call 1-800-CDC-INFO (800-232-4636).





Think You’re Not Risk for Flu? You Might Be Dead Wrong

11 10 2010

(The following is courtesy of CDC)

African Americans are more likely to have certain long-term health conditions, such as asthma, diabetes, and heart disease than other racial groups. What many might not know is that having these illnesses puts people at higher risk of getting life-threatening complications from the flu. Having higher numbers of people with these conditions  might help explain, in part, why  African Americans, along with other minority communities, were hit  hard by the 2009 H1N1 (“swine flu”) virus.

The good news is that you can take a simple step to protect yourself and your family from the flu by getting the flu vaccine each year.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says a flu vaccine is the first and best way to guard against the flu. CDC now recommends that everyone six months and older get the flu vaccine every year. “The new vaccination recommendation shows the importance of preventing the flu in everyone,” says Dr. Anne Schuchat, Assistant Surgeon General of the U.S. Public Health Service and CDC’s Director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases. “The new recommendation will allow us to present one clear message to everyone: get vaccinated.”

Although a yearly flu vaccine is important, vaccine coverage rates remain low in the U.S., particularly in African Americans. Why do so few African Americans get vaccinated? Some people may have concerns about vaccine safety. It is important to know, however, that flu vaccines (both the shot and nasal spray) have excellent safety records. Also, they are closely watched for any possible side effects. The most common side effects reported are minor, and are far outweighed by the vaccine’s benefits. Millions of flu vaccines have been given safely over the years, and vaccine safety remains a priority every single year.

It’s also important to know that the flu vaccine cannot give you the flu. Why? Because the flu shot has killed viruses, and the nasal spray has weakened viruses that cannot cause illness. If you get flu-like symptoms soon after getting vaccinated, it can mean you may have been in contact with the virus shortly before getting vaccinated, or during the two-week period it takes the body to gain protection after getting vaccinated. It might also mean you are sick with another illness that causes symptoms similar to the flu.

By not getting vaccinated, you put yourself and those around you at risk. “People who do not get vaccinated are taking two risks: first, they are placing themselves at risk for the flu, a possibly long and serious illness. Second, if they get sick they are also placing their close contacts at risk for flu,” says Schuchat. “Flu can be especially serious for babies, children, pregnant women, and people with certain medical conditions. But even healthy people are at risk of the flu and should protect themselves.”

For more information, talk to your doctor or contact CDC at 1-800-CDC-INFO or www.cdc.gov.