Are You Ready for Flu Season?

Flu Season

The chart above indicates which months most commonly see peak flu activity every year, based on CDC data gathered from the 1982-83 flu season to 2015-16. Image courtesy of the CDC.

October marks the beginning of flu season and in an effort to better protect our community, SelectCare Home Care Services wishes to share some important information about this public health concern.

Influenza Virus – The Big Picture

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, 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 2016-2017 flu seasons.

Last Year’s Flu Season

Public health officials at the CDC characterize last year’s flu season as being milder and slower to start and peak than previous years.  This is particularly noteworthy because the H1N1 influenza strain was extremely active during the 2015-2016 seasons, the same strain caused widespread hospitalization during the 2009-2010 season.

Fortunately, last year’s vaccine combination matched the most commonly circulating flu strains and the overall effectiveness of the 2015-2016 vaccine was consistent with performance of vaccines from years prior.

New Developments in Flu Vaccines

This year’s public health strategy is largely similar to the successful efforts of previous years: vaccinate as many people as possible as soon as possible. The CDC recommends that everyone aged 6 months or older should receive a flu vaccine by the end of October.

That said, there has been on important change in flu strategy specifically for people with egg allergies.  Last year, the CDC recommended these individuals use an egg-free nasally-inhaled vaccine, however, health officials now question whether this delivery method effectively protects against the flu. Instead, the CDC recommends using new “cell-based” vaccines.  Cell-based vaccines work like traditional vaccines, but are cultivated in mammalian animal cells, rather than chicken eggs and thus avoid causing allergic reactions in users.

To learn more about the CDC-approved flu vaccines available to the public, click here.

How SelectCare Helps

In an effort to protect our clients, caregivers and community this flu season, SelectCare Home Care Service 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!