Flu Season Update
Unless you have been living under a rock this winter, you have heard that this year’s flu season will go down as one of the worst in decades. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), 43 states plus New York City, District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico are experiencing higher than average incidents of influenza-like illnesses. So far this season, 63 pediatric deaths are flu-related. Even though the predominant virus is H3N2, the CDC is still recommending flu vaccines because there are still several weeks left in the flu season and there is an increase in influenza B and H1N1 viruses being reported.
As healthcare professionals, several more weeks of influenza risk means that preventative actions and continuing communication with your patients is still critical. Here are a few important talking points to keep in mind when discussing influenza with your patients.
- It’s not too late to get a flu vaccine. Even though the flu vaccine does not work as well against H3N2 viruses, other flu viruses are increasing as the flu season develops, so immunization is still recommended. Another point to highlight is that even though those who are vaccinated may still come down with the flu, studies have shown that the symptoms may be milder for those who have received the vaccine.
- Don’t ride out the storm alone. It is important that your patient knows that if they are stricken with the flu, they should avoid trying to ride out the illness without seeking medical attention. When the flu strikes, it is important to seek medical attention and receive antiviral medication. Antivirals are different from antibiotics and can make your flu shorter in duration and with milder symptoms. They may also prevent suffering from dangerous complications.
- Explain what flu-like symptoms to look for. For antiviral medications to work, it is important that treatment is started within two days of the onset of symptoms. These include fever, sore throat and coughing, body aches, chills, fatigue, headache, and nasal congestion and discharge. Other flu symptoms might include vomiting and diarrhea.
- Taking precautions to avoid the flu. Most preventive actions to avoid the flu seem fairly simple and common sense, but it is surprising how many people ignore them. Stress to your patient that it is extremely important to wash your hands with soap and water as often as possible. Clean and disinfect any surfaces or objects that may have come in contact with germs or someone who is exhibiting flu-like symptoms. Whenever possible, avoid coming in proximity to those who are sick. Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when coughing or sneezing to avoid infecting others. Lastly, keep your hands away from your eyes, nose, and mouth.
What has been your experience this flu season? Have you noticed that it is more or less busy than in years past? What are you communicating with your patients about avoiding the flu? We would love to see your comments below or stop by our Facebook page and share your experience.