Flu Infographic

10 01 2013

Flu.gov has this infographic that answers questions we all have. Take it and pass it on!

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Flu Season Is Finally Here – Get Vaccinated

2 01 2013

Flu was a slow starter this season, but it’s finally here. Those who track such things say it’s going to be a doozy of a season. It’s time to get vaccinated, and to make sure everyone in your family is protected!





Healthcare Professionals: Thanks for Vaccinating Yourselves!

3 12 2012

nurseI like nurses and doctors and technicians and assistants and all the folks who, one way or another, try to keep me healthy.

That needed to be said because, in a second, it’s going to seem like I don’t much care for them.

Every year, a few healthcare professionals complain when the order comes down to get a flu shot or wear a mask when seeing patients.

They don’t wanna. Not only don’t they wanna, but their excuses sound, well, uninformed is the most polite way I can think of to say it.

The vaccine isn’t necessary.
The masks scare people.
Nobody can tell them what to do.
The vaccine doesn’t prevent flu.
The vaccine is more dangerous than the flu.
The masks are stuffy.
They don’t wanna.

Kids are required to get certain vaccines to attend public school, and if they don’t, they can’t attend.

The CDC recommends everyone over the age of six months get an annual flu shot.

You can’t get influenza from the flu shot.

It’s puzzling to know what to say to people who are supposed to be more educated than you are about disease prevention.

Granted, there are people at work or shopping in the grocery store who didn’t get the flu shot. They are therefore at risk of getting influenza and passing it on to those who couldn’t get the shot. But, the risk we have to take out here in the big old world isn’t the same as the risk we should be expected to encounter in a healthcare setting.

I say yahoo for the hospitals and clinics holding firm on this issue. To the few in healthcare who skipped the classes on disease prevention: follow the science and provide the minimum standard of care by getting vaccinated or wearing a mask around patients.

Please.

By Trish Parnell

Image courtesy of Lower Columbia College (whose students and staff are all vaccinated, as far as I know)





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 Education Resources

17 10 2012

The American Lung Association’s Faces of Influenza campaign has a fabulous toolkit available this year that is free-of-charge, along with PSAs that are also free-of-charge.

They have brochures, posters, and flyers ready to print, and they have an influenza backgrounder, templates of articles and letters to the editor, press releases, print ads, and other materials ready to use.

You may download all of these materials, or you may ask that hard copies be sent to you.

There are two campaign spokespeople this year, both of whom are warm and caring individuals—one is Sarah Chalke from the television show Scrubs, and the other is Maria Canals Barrera, from the television show Wizards of Waverly Place.

If you have any questions about the materials, contact Mary Havell at the American Lung Association.

Families Fighting Flu also has materials that may be downloaded and used in flu-fighting efforts. They have posters, postcards, and brochures that may either be downloaded at no cost, or they have hard copies that may be ordered.

The Immunization Action Coalition has handouts about vaccine-preventable diseases and vaccines that may be downloaded from their website free-of-charge.

The Vaccine Education Center at CHOP also has many handouts that are downloadable free-of-charge from their website.

There are lots of other organizations that have free educational material about influenza, including PKIDs.

What materials do you have that you can share with others this flu season? Tell us about them in comments, and leave URLs if you can.

By Trish Parnell
Image courtesy of USACE Europe District





Weekly Flu Update

20 09 2012

In case you couldn’t make the call, here are some notes from the 20 September National Influenza Vaccine Summit call, hosted by Litjen Tan of the AMA:

Scott Epperson from CDC offered this influenza surveillance update

It’s been pretty quiet for seasonal flu, so not much to report. The vaccines we have in the Northern Hemisphere will cover most strains that are circulating, including 2009 H1N1, H3N2, and influenza B.

As for the H3N2v, there have been 305 reported cases so far. The numbers of new cases have dropped dramatically, probably due to the fairs wrapping up around the country, although the strain is still out there, so stay away from the pigs!

New numbers of H3N2v cases are on the CDC website every Friday.

General information on H3N2v can also be found on the CDC website

The Southern Hemisphere is experiencing a more severe flu season than it’s had in several years. The question is, will that hold true for us in the Northern Hemisphere? It’s difficult to say, as H3N2 is circulating more in the South, and they did not have the particular strain in their vaccine this year, although the Northern Hemisphere does have the strain in its current vaccine.

Douglas Shenson reported on his program: Vote & Vax

It’s a fun and impactful program that was initially supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and is growing each year. It’s easiest to go to the website to get educated about this effort and to find out how you can set up a flu vaccination clinic at or near a polling place.

NFID News Conference

The National Foundation for Infectious Diseases (NFID) is sponsoring a news conference on 27 September at 10am eastern that will serve as the kickoff for the autumn immunization season. The news conference will be live from the National Press Club in Washington, DC, and Dr. Len Novick is the event coordinator.

Dr. Howard Koh, Assistant Secretary for Health at HHS, will announce new data of vaccine coverage from the 2011/2012 season.

Manufacturers’ projections for the coming season and the strains for next season will also be discussed.

Dr. Bill Schaffner, immediate past president of NFID, will moderate the conference, and on the panel will be several physicians representing various professional healthcare associations. Anyone may join the conference on the live feed, although pre-registration is a must. The teleconference number is T: 800-755-1805

Remember to visit the Summit website for the latest on influenza immunization resources! You can find it at: www.preventinfluenza.org.





NIVS Weekly Call

10 09 2012

The National Influenza Vaccine Summit was created about a dozen years ago to address and resolve “influenza and influenza vaccine issues.” The CDC, the AMA, and 400+ other partners work together in this year-round effort.

During the flu season, there are weekly calls to keep all of the partners updated on the ups and downs of influenza in the US. And, just last spring in May 2011, there was held in Brussels, Belgium, the first European Influenza Summit. The two groups are now working collaboratively to reduce influenza infections.

The calls are brief and to the point. We thought you might find use for these few notes from the 6 September US call:

  • Scott Epperson from the CDC reported on flu surveillance. He said that there are low numbers of seasonal flu and most of those are H3N2 and influenza B viruses. However, there are 288 confirmed cases of the H3N2v (variant) virus, which is a swine flu strain. (New numbers are posted every Friday, so this figure may change by the time this post runs.) Sixteen of those infected were hospitalized and there was a death—an older individual with multiple, high-risk medical conditions which led to complications of influenza infection. Ninety-three of those infected were under the age of 18, with an average age of six years. Fifty-two percent were female and 48% were male, and of those with a known antiviral treatment status, 60% had been treated, and of those with a known vaccination status, 53% reported being vaccinated within the last year.
  • Harvard has now taken over the Flu Shot Finder started by Google, and they’ve done an excellent job expanding its capabilities. John Brownstein provided slides on the new features and the new site can be found at http://flushot.healthmap.org. There’s a widget available for use on your own websites that will allow people to put in their zip codes to find flu vaccine near them.
  • Christine Harding from the National Council on Aging’s Flu + You campaign presented on their program and the many free resources available to flu educators and healthcare providers. Stop by their site and take a look—there’s bound to be something you can use.

That’s it for this week. We didn’t cover everything, but what’s left out has been covered extensively elsewhere.

Do you have any flu educational resources you’d like to share? Let folks know about them in the comments, and thanks!

By Trish Parnell
Image courtesy of NIVS