Given your role in providing a safe healing environment for patients, it’s important to clear up what’s new and what’s downright false about the flu, so you and your team don’t unknowingly put patients (and each other) at risk for a nasty bout of the illness.
Current flu trends: What’s happening now
During the 2014–2015 flu season, the CDC reported
several hundred cases of influenza infection with parotitis — a swelling of one or both salivary glands, something commonly seen in mumps cases — up from just a dozen such cases ever
documented in scientific literature before 2014.
Parotitis after influenza infection can occur in people of all ages, says the CDC, but mostly school-aged children and males. This illness seems linked to influenza A (H3N2) viruses, and the CDC recommends diagnosis and treatment steps here
It’s worth noting the United States experiences a flu epidemic every year, says the CDC. It’s why we call it “flu season,” often beginning in October, peaking between December and March, and lasting as late as May.
Myths you should stop believing
Before we get to what you should do to protect yourself, peers and customers, let’s dispel common misinformation that can do more harm than good.
The Harvard Medical School has compiled a list of 10 common flu myths
it updates each year:
(Explanations for each of these myths are found here.)
What’s new this season, from the public’s perspective
- You can catch the flu from the vaccine.
- Healthy people don’t need to be vaccinated.
- Getting the flu vaccine is all you need to protect yourself.
- The flu is just a bad cold.
- You can’t spread the flu if you’re not feeling well.
- You don’t need a flu shot every year.
- You can catch the flu from being out in the cold.
- Feed a cold, starve a fever.
- Chicken soup will speed your recovery.
- If a high fever lasts more than a day or two, you may need antibiotics.
Among its new recommendations
, the CDC notes only injectable
flu shots are advised this year, reminding us that flu vaccines are updated each year to match circulating viruses.
Recommendations for people with egg allergies have also changed: People who experience only hives after exposure to eggs are in the clear to get any flu vaccine appropriate for their age and health. People who experience other symptoms beyond hives after exposure to eggs can also get any flu vaccine, but should do so in a medical setting, supervised by a medical professional who can recognize and manage severe allergic reactions. Also, they no longer have to wait 30 minutes after receiving the vaccine, says the CDC.
Finally, the CDC notes generic versions of the vaccine are now available.
How to protect yourself & others
The CDC recommends the flu vaccine for everyone aged six months and older — preferably by the end of October. Again, you need to do this every year since the vaccine is updated annually to match circulating viruses.
You should also take everyday preventive actions
like washing your hands frequently, covering your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing, avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth, and avoiding close contact with people who are sick.
All things considered, flu prevention is fairly simple. Schedule a few minutes for that flu shot, and tweak habits to keep germs off your hands and face as you go about your day. We wish you and your facilities team a flu-free season.