Prepare for the 2019-2020 Flu Season

October 31, 2019
prevent the flu infographic

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When the influenza virus hits the United States each year, it hits hard. The numbers are staggering: The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports 5-20% of Americans, on average, contract the flu each year.1 With it, there are approximately 200,000 flu-based hospitalizations, 31.4 million outpatient visits and thousands of deaths. Given the high numbers of affected individuals, this virus results in an estimated $10.4 billion in medical costs and $16.3 billion in lost wages. This is especially important in the healthcare industry, where workers are more susceptible to contracting the flu and missing work.

A Look Back at the 2018-2019 Flu Season

Last year’s flu season was more more severe than originally expected, though the burden of the flu was lower than that of the the 2017–2018 season. According to the CDC, the 2017–2018 flu caused nearly 49 million illnesses and 80,000 deaths. So what's in store for this year? May be too soon to tell since flu season just kicked off in early October. The CDC also points out that the timing, severity, and length of the flu season varies from year to year. Some scientists will look at outcomes in Australia, since their flu season has just passed, to help forecast outcomes for the United States. The Australian Government’s Department of Health states that the severity of the current season has been considered low.2

“Based on the activity in the Southern Hemisphere, it has not been a heavy season nor a particularly virulent season,” says Alan Taege, MD, an infectious disease specialist at the Cleveland Clinic. “The season there started early, peaked, and appears to be declining.”

Flu Facts and Symptoms

February is the height of the flu season, followed by December, January, and March. However, there have been outbreaks as early as October. Anyone can catch the flu, and most healthy adults have symptoms that last 5-7 days.

The most common flu symptoms include headaches, fever, chills, fatigue, and body aches.3 These symptoms should be a signal to stay home to rest and not run the risk of infecting others. While this is an important prevention tip, it is possible to contract the flu if you’ve been exposed to someone who has been infected 24 hours before their symptoms set in, and 24 hours after their fever breaks.4

According to the CDC, the flu virus is spread mainly by tiny droplets that are dispersed by coughs, sneezes, and even while talking. The flu not only spreads from person to person but also from touching a surface on which the tiny droplets have landed. Therefore, it is important to sanitize the entire environment where healthcare services are provided, including walls and ceilings. The SaniGuard Antimicrobial Fogger sanitizes an entire room - walls, ceiling, and floor in just 15 minutes.

Argument for Mandatory Flu Shots

Concern for the health of patients has prompted many hospitals to require all of their employees to get the flu shot or lose their jobs. But what about the right of patients, in this case doctors and nurses, to refuse any medical procedure they feel is unnecessary? There are arguments hospitals set forth as justification for requiring their staff to get flu shots. 5.

  • Patient safety: Hospitals don’t want their patients to contract the flu from the doctors and nurses who treat them.
  • Staff at increased risk: Health care professionals are at an increased risk for contracting the flu since they are around sick people. Keeping staff healthy can also protect your facility's bottom line since doctors and nurses who get the flu use more sick days than those who don’t.

Simple Measures to Help Prevent the Spread of the Flu

According to the CDC, vaccination is the best solution to prevent the flu.In addition to the vaccine, there are simple measures that can be taken to help prevent the spread of the flu:

  • Cover the mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing
  • Wash your hands with antimicrobial soap for at least 20 seconds throughout the day
  • Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth
  • Avoid contact with sick people
  • Stay home 24 hours after your fever is gone except to get medical care
  • Use hand sanitizer
  • Wear masks and gloves to help prevent the spread of germs
  • Clean and disinfect surfaces contaminated with germs with products such as the SaniGuard Surface Spray and sanitizing wipes.

AliMed is here to help with all of your infection control needs. Learn more at https://www.alimed.com/infection-control/.

References

  1. https://www.cdcfoundation.org/businesspulse/flu-prevention-infographic
  2. https://www1.health.gov.au/internet/main/publishing.nsf/Content/cda-surveil-ozflu-flucurr.htm
  3. https://www.cdc.gov/flu/keyfacts.htm
  4. http://www.guidewellemergency.com/file/cold-flu-season-infographicjpg
  5. https://nursejournal.org/community/should-nurses-be-forced-to-get-flu-shots/
  6. https://www.cdc.gov/flu/keyfacts.htm

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AliMed, Inc. is a manufacturer and distributor of medical supply products, and is not a medical authority. The contents contained in this article, including text, graphics, imagery, and other materials, are for informational and educational purposes only. AliMed does not provide or intend to provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment, and the information contained here should not be treated as such. If you have questions about a specific medical condition or specific personal use of a medical device, always consult your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.

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