The 2017 – 2018 flu season has already proven challenging for healthcare professionals worldwide, and with peak flu season expected to occur in February, SelectCare Home Health Care Services wanted to give our community a quick update on the season and what you can do to protect yourself, coworkers and loved ones.
The Flu and you
Catching the flu can be an unpleasant experience for healthy adults, but for older people, infants and individuals with chronic heart or lung conditions, a case of influenza can have serious consequences. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), more than 200,000 Americans are hospitalized due to flu-related complications every year, resulting in an annual average of 36,000 terminal flu cases.
The Influenza virus is extremely contagious when compared to other diseases. Because so many people contract the virus every year, there are a wide variety of influenza strains active during any given flu season, each requiring a different vaccine. In order to limit spread of the virus, health officials try to predict the most active strains in a given year and develop vaccines to specifically target these strains, meaning last year’s vaccine will not protect individuals during the 2017-2018 flu season.
Flu Season Snapshot
The CDC’s most recent analysis of flu activity in the US suggests the 2018 flu season will likely be the most severe since 2014 – 2015, which saw an estimated 8.3 million illnesses, 4.7 million medical visits and 758,000 flu hospitalizations among Americans 65 and older alone. The CDC notes that the number of cities and states currently reporting “high” to “widespread” flu activity are similar to those seen during peak flu activity in February of 2015.
Some pathologists suggest that abnormally cold weather has led some influenza strains to become more resilient in recent months. Additionally, this year’s flu vaccine has proven somewhat less effective than in prior years, with the current vaccine’s effectiveness estimated at 30 percent, down from last year’s success rate of between 39 and 42 percent.
What can you do?
While this year’s flu vaccine looks to be less effective than previous years, medical experts still suggest everyone 6 months and older be vaccinated, as the current vaccine may not prevent infection, but can prevent or minimize dangerous complications like pneumonia. Additionally, the vaccine can take up to two weeks to become fully effective, so receiving a vaccine before peak flu activity in February is highly advised.
As is the case every year, adults aged 65 and older and infants are most at risk of serious flu complications, but it is important that everyone be vaccinated regardless of their personal risk factors, as this lowers flu transmission rates from healthy adults to more vulnerable individuals.
If you choose not to receive a flu vaccination for any reason, it is highly recommended that you wear a flu mask when spending time around infants, those 65 or older or anyone with a weakened immune system.
For more information on healthy habits you can develop to avoid spreading the flu, check out the CDC’s guide.
New Flu Treatments & Prevention
Public health experts work tirelessly to manage the flu season every year, at times experimenting with new treatment and prevention measures in order to save lives. As a result, best practices and vaccination guidelines change frequently.
This year’s biggest change in treatment involves the discontinuation of nasal spray-delivered vaccines previously suggested for individuals with egg allergies, as they have not proven to be consistently effective.
Instead of using nasal sprays, individuals who experience mild allergic reactions to eggs (such as hives) are now encouraged to take the traditional vaccine, which is cultivated in eggs, but rarely causes complications.
For individuals with more severe egg allergies, the CDC still recommends traditional egg-cultivated vaccines, but urges these individuals to receive their vaccine in a formal medical setting like a hospital or doctor’s office where a severe allergic reaction can be treated quickly and safely.
The CDC currently recommends the following methods of vaccination (follow the links for further information on these vaccinations from the CDC):
- Standard dose flu shots.
- High-dose shots for older people.
- Shots made with adjuvant for older people.
- Shots made with virus grown in cell culture.
- Shots made using a vaccine production technology (recombinant vaccine) that does not require the use of flu virus.
How SelectCare Helps
In an effort to protect our clients, caregivers and community this flu season, SelectCare is offering all caregivers and clients free influenza vaccinations, a program we have run for decades with great success. Last year, this program resulted in more than 250 caregivers, administrative staff members and clients receiving vaccinations. In addition to this program, SelectCare continues to follow all New York State Department of Health guidelines for infection control and patient protection.
To learn more about influenza vaccinations, how to protect yourself or your loved ones from the flu, or how our staff of home health care experts can help you live comfortably and independently in your long-time home, call us today!