[This piece was written by Kassandra Foley, MHA, MT(ASCP)cm, CIC, manager of infection control – acute care, St. Peter’s Health Partners.]
In January 2018, New York state saw the single worst week for influenza hospitalizations since the state started tracking the numbers in 2004. More than 1,600 patients with influenza were admitted in just one week, with nearly 23,400 hospitalizations reported for the entire 2017-2018 season.
While the overall hospitalization numbers were down for the 2018-2019 season, with just over 18,000 reported, influzena activity was still widespread throughout the state. The New York State Department of Health anticipates another active season for 2019-2020, which makes getting your flu vaccine as soon as possible so critical.
Everyone knows about the flu, but not all know how deadly it can be. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that, from October 2018 through May 2019, that there were approximately 50,000 flu deaths in the United States, mostly among the very young, the elderly, and people with heart or breathing conditions (like emphysema or asthma).
Influenza is a respiratory infection caused by one of several viruses. Some tell-tale signs of the flu are:
- Sudden onset of illness;
- A fever over 101 degrees that lasts three to four days;
- Tiredness/weakness that can last from two to three weeks;
- Muscle aches and pains; and
- Chest discomfort
Hygiene is key to fighting the flu – you should wash your hands frequently, and be sure to cover your coughs and sneezes. And the best prevention against the flu is to get vaccinated.
The CDC recommends vaccination for everyone six months of age and older. Points to remember:
- Vaccines are safer and more effective today than ever before.
- The flu IS NOT CAUSED by the vaccine.
- It takes about two weeks for full protection to develop.
Remember that when you get vaccinated, you are not only protecting yourself, but also those who cannot receive the vaccine. There is a small group of people who should NOT receive a flu vaccine because of severe allergies or certain preexisting conditions. Ask your doctor if there is any reason that you should NOT receive a flu shot. For those who can, it’s an important reason for you and your family to get vaccinated; you are helping to keep yourselves and your community healthy.
It is important to note scientists put a great deal of energy every year into studying which strains will be most prominent. Though there are times where not every vaccine strain is a perfect match with the most prevalent strain in our region, it will nonetheless confer some degree of protection — and certainly, some protection beats none.
That is great news for those individuals who have already received the vaccine and it should motivate those who have NOT yet gotten the vaccine to do so ASAP!