Last week I had the privilege of attending the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and National Foundation of Infectious Diseases (NFID) Annual Influenza and Pneumococcal Vaccine News Conference.
It was more than a typical “dry” news conference. The speakers have personal experience with the most severe complications of influenza and pneumococcal disease. Not only doctors but also parents of previously healthy children who had severe complications of influenza spoke passionately about the importance of influenza prevention including immunization.
Especially touching was the story Dr. Paul Offit, MD Professor of Pediatrics at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) told. He’s in charge of the hospital’s employee vaccination program. And CHOP has a 100% compliance rate. That means every employee is vaccinated against influenza.
Dr. Offit spoke passionately about how two children were admitted about 10 years ago. They did not have influenza when admitted, but because of their impaired immune systems from cancer they died during their hospitalizations. Tragically, they died from complications of influenza.
Their deaths touched Dr. Offit deeply, revealed in his voice and words. He emotionally explained why every hospital employee protects patients by getting their flu vaccine… or they’re fired.
While that may seem harsh, it’s the hospital’s policy to protect the children and families they serve.
Influenza can be deadly and is unpredictable. Last year it mostly affected young and middle-aged adults. Two groups who usually have only mild or no flu symptoms.
While many escaped the most severe complications of influenza, the cost in lost time from work was staggering.
Because “tens of millions became ill,” according to Dr. Thomas Frieden MD, MPH who is Director of the CDC. Only 34% of adults aged 18 to 64 years received a flu vaccination last year. While influenza can affect anyone, the highest risk for complications is in the elderly and those with a compromised or impaired immune system.
Each speaker emphasized that the most effective prevention of influenza is to get a flu vaccine every year...
Currently the CDC and National Foundation of Infectious Diseases recommend everyone 6 months and older who does not have a contraindication get a flu vaccine. Babies less than 6 months old are protected when their mothers have received flu vaccine during their pregnancy.
What are the contraindications?
According to the CDC the major contraindications are a severe reaction to a previous influenza vaccination and/or a severe egg allergy. Check with your personal physician or other health care provider to see if you have a contraindication.
The CDC recommendations include everyone taking “Everyday Preventive Actions That Can Help Fight Germs Like Flu”. According to the CDC, these include…
- Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. This will block the spread of droplets from your mouth or nose that could contain germs.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth. Germs spread this way.
- Try to avoid close contact with sick people.
- If you or your child gets sick with a respiratory illness, like flu, limit contact with others as much as possible to help prevent spreading illness. Stay home (or keep your child home) for at least 24 hours after fever is gone except to seek medical care or for other necessities. Fever should be gone without the use of a fever-reducing medicine.
- If an outbreak of flu or another illness occurs, follow public health advice. This may include information about how to increase distance between people and other measures.
Their third recommendation is for anyone prescribed flu antiviral medications to take them as directed. Antiviral medications effective against influenza can prevent flu and decrease the severity of the disease and are indicated for some. Again, your doctor or other health care provider can advise you best.
The national recommendations have expanded over the past few years, and make a lot of sense. It was not so long ago that only those people at risk for severe flu complications were advised to get a flu vaccine. Now this has expanded to include healthy adults and children.
Vaccinating healthy adults and children prevents the spread of influenza.
Because sometimes those who seem healthy can also die from complications of influenza. So your flu vaccination can keep you and those you love healthy.
While the experts cannot predict exactly which strain will be a problem or whether this year will be severe, they do include the strains known to be most likely. And this year there are an estimated 150 million doses of influenza vaccine available for this season. The CDC experts do not anticipate any widespread shortages, as have occurred in some years previously.
So are you, your family and your carereceiver getting your flu vaccinations now? The life you save may be one of your family or your own.
More information on the 2014 influenza vaccination can be found at http://www.adultvaccination.org/2014flunews Resources:
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