Given that flu epidemics can start as early as October, it is important to understand who is at risk and what you can do to prevent spreading the disease, especially when dealing with a healthcare environment. With hospitals, doctor’s offices and clinics seeing more patients with flu-like symptoms during the fall months it is important to know how to not only keep patients, but staff safe from infection so they are available to provide care when patients need it most.
Influenza epidemics are estimated to result in roughly three to five million cases of severe illness and about 250,000 - 500,000 fatalities across the globe. These epidemics are more concerning for certain groups of the population; the at-risk rate for adults is 5%-10% and 20%-30% for children. These pockets of the population can be broken down even further; children younger than the age of two, and adults over 65 years of age are at much higher risk. Also, individuals with chronic heart, lung, kidney, liver, blood or metabolic diseases, weakened immune systems, and pregnant women should take higher precaution during the flu season. However, many healthy adults may also be able to infect other people beginning one day before symptoms develop and up to five to seven days after becoming sick - ensuring you take all the necessary precautions will dramatically help reduce the spread of infection.
On average, more than 200,000 people in the United States are hospitalized each year for respiratory and heart condition illnesses associated with seasonal influenza viral infections. Each year, between 5%-20% of US residents contract the flu and more than 200,000 people are hospitalized for flu-related complications.
Similarly, every year, between 2,000 and 8,000 Canadians die from the flu or related complications. The incidence of people affected seems to be increasing, in fact during the 2014/2015 flu season in Canada, it was reported that the number of adult hospitalizations exceeded those in any of the four previous flu seasons.
With so many people affected by the flu annually, it reinforces the need to be aware of the risks, and ensure you are prepared on how to prevent them. This risk increases for healthcare staff as they are surrounded by illness and infection every day. However, they are so crucial to the health and wellbeing of patients it is of utmost importance that they remain healthy and able to provide care during flu season.
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