Flu – You Have a Choice

20 03 2014

Kristi was a beautiful, intelligent elementary school teacher, and my only sibling. She was healthy, and ran or walked several miles many times a week.

She was active in the community, supporting anything for children. And she made sure her own two children were given lots of experiences by visiting zoos and national parks, camping, playing sports, and doing lots of other activities.

She was always on the go somewhere to do something.

She encouraged all of us to spend time with family, and to put aside our daily chores so that we wouldn’t miss out on opportunities to make memories.

She was an avid photographer and literally had thousands of photos stored on memory cards.

Sisters

Sisters

She was always the one to pick up on someone being left out, and took time to show them kindness and love. Kristi developed many strong relationships because of this positive attitude. She was very strong-willed, fighting for what she believed was the right thing in life.

My sister was someone special.

Since Kristi taught first grade, she was frequently exposed to colds and illnesses. Even though she was healthy, on December 12th, 2013, she began to develop symptoms of influenza. She had a headache, extreme fatigue, nausea and vomiting, and a hacking cough.

She went to her physician, who prescribed Tamiflu® and told her to take some over-the-counter flu relief medications.

She made a choice to not purchase the Tamiflu because, even with insurance, the cost was $65, and she had Christmas presents left to buy. Kristi didn’t want anyone to do without a precious gift, particularly her children.

The next two days she began to worsen, to the point she couldn’t get out of bed to get herself fluids. Friends came by to help her and brought her Gatorade®. My mother took her chicken noodle broth, and she was able to get out of bed on Sunday, December 15th.

She still complained of a headache, but drank lots of fluids to try to build up her strength. Kristi’s fever continued, and she started noticing some chest pain Sunday evening while in the shower. Once out, she said it went away. Urgent care had already closed, so she told us she would return to her doctor’s office on Monday morning just to make sure she wasn’t developing any complications.

My mother asked her if she had gotten a flu vaccine this year and she said, “No, but I will definitely get one next year!” She was so scared of needles that she opted to not get a vaccine, thinking lots of people get the flu and suffer through it a few days and get better.

She was not this lucky.

On December 16th, at 1:13pm, only four days into her illness, I got a call from my dad saying an ambulance had been called to her house and it didn’t sound good.

Hearing those words from my dad, who was an EMT, made me know it was serious. As I rushed to the hospital, I picked up my mom from her work and tried to reassure her to stay calm. I tried to prepare Mom for Kristi maybe being on a ventilator or unconscious, just in case.

As we approached the hospital ER doors, my father came out with tears rolling down his cheeks, and my mother instantly knew without him speaking. She desperately asked, “She didn’t make it?” He quietly shook his head. And as I stood there clinging to my parents as they mourned the death of their child I thought of my mother’s words I had so quickly brushed off, “People die from the flu, Sharon.”

As a registered nurse, I have taken care of many patients with influenza and they have recovered. I brushed it off when my mom had been worrying over the weekend because my sister was healthy! She was active. She was an adult with no complications.

Kristi was so healthy, she gave my dad a kidney 10 years ago. At her regular check-ups, her physician always said things looked great and she was doing well.

Healthy adults don’t die from the flu!

She was a fighter, she was so strong-willed. People like that don’t succumb to the flu.

But, I was wrong. Healthy adults and children die every year from the flu because they do not get vaccinated—the number one way to prevent infection.

Losing a sister, and having to see my parents mourn the loss of their first-born, was the hardest thing I have ever faced in my life.

Seeing the pain in their eyes, the thousands of tears shed, was crushing to me. I not only lost my sister but had to watch my parents’ pain, knowing I could not fix this.

But one thing I know is it could have been prevented. It only takes a minute. The pain of a needle doesn’t compare to the pain of watching your family suffer through grief, trust me! Influenza can be prevented with a simple vaccine taken yearly.

It’s your choice. Please make the decision to vaccinate yourself against this deadly illness.

by Sharon Hicks





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/





Stay Healthy This Winter!

30 09 2013

Stay Healthy This Winter

Click here for larger image!





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.





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





Bird Flu Out of China

11 04 2013

avian fluThe bird flu that’s been identified in China has an official designation: Avian influenza A (H7N9) virus. It’s a mouthful.

As of 12:00 p.m. today, there have been 38 cases identified in humans, and 11 deaths. When healthcare staff identify the infection, they hospitalize and quarantine the patient, no matter how mild the symptoms.

There are most likely people infected who do not have symptoms, and who have not yet been identified. It’s therefore hard to know the total number of infected.

The virus is showing up in four provinces in China, and positive test results have been found in market birds, including ducks, chickens, pigeons, and quails. The poultry markets have been closed in an attempt to arrest the spread of this disease.

So far, the virus has not been found in wild birds. What this means is that we don’t need to worry about wild birds migrating and bringing the disease with them to other geographic areas around the world.

There’s been no confirmed person-to-person transmission of the virus, although it may be going on in a limited fashion and no one is aware of it.

The Avian influenza A (H7N9) virus seems to impact those over 60 years of age more than the younger groups. About one-third of those infected are adults ages 18 to 59, and there has been at least one pediatric infection.

Diagnostic kits are being sent overseas first, and once the CDC has received FDA approval, those kits will be distributed in the US.

Here’s the website for up-to-date information: http://www.cdc.gov/flu/avianflu/h7n9-virus.htm

Thanks to the CDC for its teleconference this afternoon, during which this information was presented.

By Trish Parnell

Image courtesy of Phil @ Delfryn Design





Flu – The Last Push

18 02 2013

It ain’t over ‘til it’s over!

Following are some ‘in the home stretch’ flu tips and resources from the CDC.

This patient’s brochure is spot-on for this year’s (or next) flu season. And if you’re worried about getting the flu, take a look. It includes tips on prevention and what you can do to make it better, should you become infected.

If you’re a health educator and your message is getting a little tired, here are some free resources, including audio/video, badges, and widgets.

We hope you got a flu shot this season. If not, take this year as a lesson and do so next year and all the years after. The vaccine works for the majority of those who take it. Don’t miss out on this crucial first step in flu prevention.

The US flu season continues; flu-like illness has fallen in the East and risen sharply in the West, so take care for the next month or so.

The timing of flu is very unpredictable and can vary from season to season. Flu activity usually peaks in the US in January or February. However, seasonal flu activity can begin as early as October and continue to occur as late as May.

Symptoms of the flu may include fever, cough, sore throat, runny nose, body aches, headaches, and fatigue.

To find out what’s going on in the world of flu, get timely information at: http://www.cdc.gov/flu/weekly/fluactivitysurv.htm

If you’re infected, get to your provider and start on antivirals.

And next year, as soon as you hear about flu vaccine being available, hightail it to your pharmacy or provider and get vaccinated!