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DebMed Blog: Healthcare Hygiene Matters

Visiting a Hospitalized Patient This Flu Season? Here’s What You Need to Know Before You Go

Posted by DebMed on Feb 15, 2018 2:27:04 PM

According to recent reports from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), for the first time in its history of reporting, the US is experiencing widespread flu activity in every part of the continental U.S.

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Topics: flu season, Influenza, 5 Moments, Canadian 4 Moments, hand hygiene education

4 Ways To Give Flu The Cold Shoulder This Winter

Posted by DebMed on Nov 30, 2017 7:00:00 AM

Winter is just around the corner – and with it comes flu season, meaning potential bad news for healthcare facilities. Minor illnesses are already a major staffing issue for hospitals – they cause an annual average loss of 4.3 working days per person[1] – and they are especially problematic at a time of year when admissions see a major increase. However, this year could prove to be even worse…

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Topics: flu season, Influenza, infection prevention, healthcare, flu vaccine

Warning Nasty Flu Season Ahead

Posted by Lisa A. Mack, MS, MPH on Nov 23, 2017 10:00:00 AM

Reading the articles about the 2017-18 flu season, you’ll see headlines like “potential for nasty winter season”, and “why we may be in for a miserable flu season”. (I don’t think I’ve seen a “good” flu season). During every flu season there are hospitalizations and deaths that occur.  

 

 

The 2017-18 seasonal flu season in the Northern hemisphere is beginning now. Experts are warning that we may be in for a nasty flu season. Our flu season begins usually at low levels in October and November, with a rise in December and continuing through April. Flu levels are at low levels at this point with other respiratory viruses circulating. Our season follows the Southern hemisphere’s season, which occurs during our summer, their winter. Looking at how effective the vaccine produced was, against the circulating strains, gives us a glimpse into what ours may look like. Australia has recorded over 200,000 flu cases so far in 2017, which is more than any of their other flu seasons. Based upon Australia’s experience, we may have a higher number of cases, but nothing is certain.

 

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To arrive at our flu season with our flu vaccine, we need to go back and see how the vaccine is made. Every year a new flu vaccine is made. Influenza is a virus and viruses like to change, or mutate, hence the need to tweak the vaccine components each year. Flu season is a year- long event where the Southern hemisphere has their season before the Northern hemisphere. This is during our summer, and their winter. Scientists study which viruses are circulating, number of hospitalizations, and deaths. Year round the World Health Organization (WHO) has sentinel sites in 113 different countries which collect surveillance information about circulating viruses, severity, and how well the vaccine matches those strains. These small centers send their information to one of the WHO Collaborating Centers on Influenza: Atlanta GA, London, Melbourne, Tokyo, and Beijing. Scientists from each of the 5 sites meet twice each year, in February and again in September first to determine what will compose the Northern hemisphere’s vaccine, and then to determine the following year’s Southern hemisphere vaccine. As you see, there is lag time in the production of the vaccines until they are given to people. The scientists have to choose what they feel will be the predominant strains and hope that when they get to people the virus hasn’t changed much. There is a lot of predicting going into flu vaccine development which happens months in advance for a virus that loves to change.

 

There are 3 types of influenza virus: A, B, and C. The dominant strains we are beginning to see now are A H3N2 (Singapore), A H1N1 (Michigan), and B (Phuket). This presents a bit of a problem as the H3N2 strain is not an exact match as the H3N2 that is in the vaccine, which is A H3N2 (Hong Kong). It is very similar but not exact. But is it worth getting? Yes, of course it is worth it. It may not be the optimal vaccine, but it will provide good coverage. And while it may not match exactly, it will lessen the severity of the infection.  Everyone 6 months and older should receive a flu vaccine before the end of October. Pregnant women, those with underlying health conditions, the young, and the elderly should all make sure to receive their vaccine. It is not only for your protection, but for those around you that can’t receive the vaccine.  There are some additional activities that we should take to prevent flu and other respiratory viruses:

 

  1. Avoid close contact.
  2. Stay home when you are sick.
  3. Cover your mouth and nose, sneeze into your sleeve.
  4. Wash your hands.
  5. Washing your hands often will help protect you from germs. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.
  6. Avoid touching the T-Zone- Eyes, Nose, and Mouth.
  7. Practice good health habits


Learn About the Proper Hand Washing Technique

 

References

  1. Here’s why Canada may be in for a miserable 2017-18 flu season. Carmen Chai. Global News
  2. Prevention and Control of Seasonal Influenza with Vaccines, 2017-18. CDC cdc.gov/flu
  3. Here’s why the 2017 flu season was so bad. Ian M. Mackay, Katherine Arden.http://theconversation.com/here’s-why-the-2017-flu-season-was-so-bad
  4. WHO swaps out H3N2, B strains in Southern Hemisphere flu vaccine. Lisa Schnirring  CIDRAP News cidrap.umn.edu
  5. How Are Seasonal Flu Vaccines Made? Sabrina Stierwalt Quick and Dirty Tips. Com

 

About the Author

Lisa A. Mack MS, MPH is an Epidemiologist and Communicable Disease Investigator. In addition, she is a certified HIV counselor and tester in a county sexually transmitted disease (STD) clinic. She received a Master of Science degree (Epidemiology) from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, School of Public Health and a Master of Public Health degree (Epidemiology) from Columbia University, Mailman School of Public Health.

 Her current research interest is investigating the antibacterial properties of essential oils to be used in treating multidrug resistant bacteria (MRSA, MSSA, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, etc.) in the healthcare setting.  She loves germs, diseases, public health, educating & empowering people about their health and well-being. Public Health Rocks!

 

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Topics: Influenza, flu season, infection prevention

What Can We Do About The Flu?

Posted by Allison Pearsall on Sep 21, 2017 7:27:00 AM

Worrisome signs of what’s just around the corner

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Topics: Influenza, hand hygiene, flu season, Long Term Care, hand sanitizer

The Top Four Facts about the Flu

Posted by DebMed on Dec 17, 2015 9:30:00 AM

Every year, healthcare professionals brace themselves for the coming flu season, despite the fact that the flu virus is notoriously impossible to predict. The only thing we know for certain is that the flu will spread each year. Beyond that, we must simply adopt a "wait and see" attitude regarding the flu, since the timing, severity, and length of the flu season are variables that change from year to year.

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Topics: Influenza

The Impact of the Flu and Prevention Considerations [Free E-Book]

Posted by DebMed on Oct 2, 2015 9:30:00 AM

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.

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Topics: flu season, Influenza

Engage Patients with Influenza Insights

Posted by Heather McLarney on Nov 24, 2014 11:00:00 AM

While we prepare for the holidays and get into the festive spirit, it’s also time to keep in mind that we are already in the midst of flu season. All the extra hugs and handshakes that are exchanged at family gatherings, holiday parties and school concerts are added chances to spread the flu and other germs.

While we all need to be knowledgeable of ways to protect ourselves and our families from acquiring and spreading the flu, it is especially important for hospital, health system and physician practice staff to have an active role in informing patients about the facts of flu prevention, diagnosis and treatment. To engage and influence patients and families to prevent the flu, consider these strategies:

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Topics: clean hands, holidays, flu season, Influenza

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The DebMed blog is the go-to source for hand hygiene and infection prevention related discussions occurring in the healthcare industry. Join the conversation! All readers are invited to comment, share stories and information, and post articles of interest.

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