Influenza season is in full swing and the headlines are troubling. For example, CDC Confirms Widespread and Intense Flu Season All Across the US
, CDC official on why the flu is near-epidemic, peaking early this year
, and Severe flu brings medicine shortages, packed ERs and a rising death toll in California
, are a just a few headlines causing distress for many. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the most important method to prevent the flu is getting the flu vaccine every year. Keep in mind, that recommendation is not just made for your own protection.
or community immunity, makes it less easy for communicable diseases to spread, especially to those for whom vaccination is contraindicated. It’s an indirect way to protect individuals through vaccination of the public. Herd immunity protects everyone, but it is especially important for those who can’t get vaccinated – for example, those with life-threatening allergies to any part of the influenza vaccine.
An example of a disruption in herd immunity occurred in the not-so-distant past. If you recall, back in 2015, a measles outbreak began in California when an unvaccinated child was hospitalized with rash. The child’s travel history included a recent visit to a Disney theme park, and within two months, about 125 additional cases were connected with visits to Disneyland (Gould, 2017).
So, what’s the problem? Of late, vaccine safety is being questioned by many and the controversy is getting more attention than the diseases they are intended to prevent. Also, many of us weren’t alive when certain communicable diseases – those for which vaccinations are currently available and recommended – even existed. Most of us haven’t been affected by the crippling effects of polio or the devastation from diphtheria.
While influenza may not seem like a scary illness to some, it can be devastating for others. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
, 6,486 laboratory-confirmed influenza-associated hospitalizations have been reported since October 1, 2017, and 7% (the epidemic threshold) of deaths for the year (up to and including the week ending December 23, 2017) were attributable to pneumonia and influenza. Twenty influenza-related pediatric deaths have been reported during the 2017-2018 influenza season thus far (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2018).
When it comes to vaccination, remember that by protecting yourself, you are protecting so many others. As nurses, we are in a key position to educate our patients and the public. Use these tools for Staying Healthy This Flu Season
and be sure to SHARE the Flu Vaccine Recommendation
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2018, January 12). Influenza (Flu). Retrieved from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: https://www.cdc.gov/flu/index.htm
Gould, K. (2017). Vaccine Safety: Evidence-Based Research Must Prevail. Dimensions of Critical Care Nursing, 145-147.
U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. (2017, December). Community Immunity. Retrieved from Vaccines.gov: https://www.vaccines.gov/basics/work/protection/index.html