As the temperature drops and we move through October, public health officials are urging everyone to make preparations for flu season. In an effort to better protect our community, read on for important information about flu season, vaccinations and how SelectCare Home Care Services protects our clients and caregivers alike.
Understanding the hazard
While a case of influenza can typically be overcome by healthy adults with little medical intervention, older adults, infants and those with compromised immune systems, heart or lung conditions are susceptible to flu-related complications that hospitalize approximately 200,000 Americans every year, according to the CDC.
Although healthy adults will typically shrug off the virus with little trouble, it does not exempt them from flu season preparation, as infected healthy adults pose a major risk for infecting others who will be more directly impacted by the flu.
When does flu season begin?
Flu season has no predictable start or end date, but is rather marked by an increase in flu activity across the United States. Flu activity typically increases steadily over October and November, peaks between December and February, then declines to normal levels in May, however these milestones vary by year depending on the particular strains of influenza common to that year. For example, the 2017 – 2018 flu seasons began later in November, peaked in January and February, and showed heightened activity through March.
Understanding Flu Vaccines
No medical intervention or personal actions are more likely to protect an individual and those around them than receiving the flu vaccine, however, the efficacy of the vaccine varies by year. Here’s how it works:
Throughout the year, public health experts work to try and identify what strains (genetic variants) of the influenza virus will be most prevalent during flu season. Using these estimates, scientists then synthesize flu vaccines designed to combat these specific strains of the virus. Because it takes time to produce these vaccines, scientists cannot wait until flu season begins to start their work, resulting in the variable effectiveness of the flu vaccine from year to year.
The CDC considers last year’s vaccine to be an overall success, with vaccine users across all age groups being 40 percent less likely to see a doctor or be hospitalized for flu-related symptoms.
If you are considering getting the flu vaccine – great! Just bear in mind that you should not receive the vaccine if you already have flu-like symptoms and you should discuss any allergies you may have with a medical professional before receiving the vaccine. Because the flu vaccine is partially made with inactive flu cells, some people who receive the flu vaccine might show minor signs of the flu for a short period of time after receiving the vaccine.
Finally, the timing of your flu shot can play an important role in ensuring you and those around you remain safe. The vaccine can take up to two weeks to become fully active, so people are encouraged to receive their vaccination before flu activity peaks. Getting your vaccine early also ensures you get one before your local pharmacy runs through their supply!
Flu Vaccines and Home Care
Because home health caregivers spend so much time in close proximity to clients who are often older or have medical conditions that make them more susceptible to the flu, vaccination and other methods of preventing infection are critical. In New York State, home caregivers are required to present annual proof of vaccination, or if they are unwilling or unable to receive the vaccine, must wear a face shield while in the client’s home.
SelectCare protects our caregivers and clients by making flu vaccines available for free to all field staff members and administrators alike, as well as provide caregivers with ongoing education about preventing the spread of the flu through our winter in-service program. Combined, these efforts allow our agency to exceed the statewide vaccination rate and better serve our clients.
SelectCare hopes you found this information about the upcoming flu season helpful in guiding your choices about how you can protect yourself and others this winter. SelectCare has helped New York families overcome challenges great and small for more than 30 years, giving our clients opportunities to lead happier, healthier lives in their long-time homes.