Thursday, December 4, 2014

CDC's Emergency Flu Health Advisory

The CDC has released an emergency advisory about influenza

The CDC advisory states that so far this season, influenza A (H3N2) viruses have been reported most frequently and have been detected in almost all states. This announcement comes along during a season that has already presented a few "Flu Season Surprises."

Why does this matter? During past seasons when influenza A (H3N2) viruses have predominated, higher overall and age-specific hospitalization rates and more mortality have been observed. Unfortunately 52% of the influenza A (H3N2) viruses collected and analyzed were antigenically different from the vaccine.

What that means is that the vaccine is not as close of a match for these circulating strains as scientists had hoped.  All things considered, clinicians should encourage all patients 6 months and older who have not yet received an influenza vaccine this season to be vaccinated against influenza. As nurses, it is important to share this update and stress to patients that the influenza vaccines still do protect against certain strains of the flu. While not 100% (and no vaccine is), being vaccinated to protect against the flu reduces the risk of influenza complications even among the strains that have mutated.

The CDC also stresses the usage of antiviral medications when needed and deemed appropriate. Roche's Tamiflu and GlaxoSmithKline's Relenza can shorten flu symptoms by around half a day however the CDC states that the benefit of these drugs is greatest when treatment is started early in the course of the infection.

You may see notorious websites using this information as a reason to refuse or avoid the influenza vaccine. Remember--Just because the vaccine is not a “perfect match” to  influenza A (H3N2) does not mean ones should refuse getting vaccinated. There are still other strains circulating and the vaccines still provide protection. If in the event you see websites or news sources advising against vaccination, contact them with the correct information, or direct them to the CDC for clarification. Voices for Vaccines recently wrote a blog post about the effectiveness of the influenza vaccine, and though not impervious, the influenza vaccine can make the difference of a child recovering from the flu at home on the couch or being treated in Pediatric Intensive Care Unit on a ventilator.

What else can we as nurses do to reduce the transmission of the influenza virus? 

Along with the flu prevention tips in the graphic above, the CDC urges you to "Take 3 Actions" to protect yourself and others from influenza (the flu).

  • 1-Take time to get a flu vaccine.
  • 2-Take everyday preventive actions to stop the spread of germs.
  • 3-Take flu antiviral drugs if your doctor prescribes them.

Skeptical Raptor provides a tl;dr version- The flu vaccine is incredibly safe. It’s fairly effective, though that can vary from year to year as flu variants mutate, like this year. This year’s vaccine may not be able to prevent a new variant of H3N2 flu, but it may lessen the symptoms of the variant.

The flu season has only just begun, and we've already had five flu-related pediatric deaths. It is imperative that nurses to educate patients, colleagues and their communities about the need to vaccinate against the flu. Protection is still protection, which is better than no protection at all. 

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Nurses Need to Lead the Way When It Comes to Flu Shots

In recognition of National Influenza Vaccination Week (NIVW) Nurses Who Vaccinate is participating in a blog relay as part of a countdown to the first day of NIVW. 

Each day, a different Flu Vaccination Digital Ambassador will post about the importance of flu vaccination as it relates to their readers. You can follow the NIVW conversation on Twitter using hashtag #NIVW2014 and stay tuned as each Digital Ambassador shares who will be posting next.

-NIVW Blog Relay Schedule-

Monday, December 1  –     A Place for Mom – adults 65 years and older
Tuesday, December 2 –      Nurses Who Vaccinate – health care professionals
Wednesday, December 3  - Voices for Vaccines – parents and caregivers of young children
Thursday, December 4  –   Shot of Prevention – pregnant women and parents
Friday, December 5  –       Healtheo360 – people with a chronic illness, like heart disease or diabetes
Saturday, December 6 –    HealthCentral – people with asthma 
Sunday, December 7 – Cold & Flu – people at any age or stage of life

Nurses Who Vaccinate are proud to be partnering with our fellow Digital Ambassadors in sharing the importance of influenza vaccines in the week preceding National Influenza Vaccination Week (NIVW). Initiated by the CDC in 2005 to highlight the importance of continuing flu vaccination through the holiday season and beyond, this year's NIVW is scheduled for December 7-13, 2014.

Nurses are the leading teachers of health care.

Nurses are the main health care workers responsible for educating patients and communities. Like many public health initiatives, the best way to educate our patients about vaccines is to lead by example.

We can only expect our patients to follow our medical advice when we implement it ourselves. We need to walk the walk if we're going to talk the talk. A nurses' role is not limited to administering vaccinations.  It is a nurses' responsibility to be vaccinated and, importantly, do so publicly.

Many nurses and doctors have taken to social media to share that they've received their influenza vaccines. Many of our Nurses Who Vaccinate members have done just that!

Another way to demonstrate the evidence-based side of nursing is by taking the CDC Flu Vaccination Pledge for the 2014-2015 Season. Nurses are also encouraged to participate the  CDC-hosted Twitter chat on Tuesday, December 9 from 1­2pm EST. Nurses can follow this event on Twitter at  @CDCFlu, and with the hashtag #NIVW2014.
The chat will:
o Emphasize that getting vaccinated in December, January and beyond may still provide protective
benefit against influenza.
o Remind parents and providers of the need for certain children to receive a second dose of flu vaccine for optimal protection.
o Provide an opportunity for people to ask questions about the flu and flu vaccination.

The influenza vaccine is safe and effective.

Vaccinating nurses and health care workers has been proven to be effective in protecting patients from influenza. Several studies have shown that vaccination of health care workers protect elderly patients in long-term care. One analysis predicted that if all health care workers in a facility were vaccinated, then approximately 60% of patient influenza infections could be prevented.

Yet, the final numbers for last flu season reported that health care worker influenza vaccination coverage was only 75.2% , similar to coverage of 72.0% in the 2012-13 season. We need to do better.

According to the American Public Health Association, "Influenza vaccination of health care workers is the single most important measure for preventing occupation-acquired and nosocomial influenza from both known and unexpected sources. Other measures, such as hand hygiene and barrier precautions, are additional protective steps, not alternatives. Masks or respirators, whether worn by people with influenza-like illness (ILI) symptoms or those who are in proximity to them, are not as protective as preexposure immunization, especially given the high proportion of asymptomatic infectious people."

You can join the growing number of nurses who are getting their influenza vaccine. Be one of the main pro-science nurses proudly saying, "I won't spread the flu to my patients or my family this year!"

If you've already received your yearly influenza vaccine for this flu season-- kudos and THANK YOU! You're setting a positive example among your co-workers and patients.

Are you encountering questions and concerns from others who are flu vaccine hesitant? Seeing a large number of flu-refusing, mask-wearing co-workers? The CDC has complied common questions and misconceptions about influenza vaccines and answered them on this page. Feel free to print it out for educational handout material and even post it in the break room! Looking for more influenza information to help encourage colleagues to get their flu shots? Check out the CDC Flu campaign for healthcare workers. If you're uncomfortable answering questions personally, send them our way via email-

Remember: CDC says an annual flu vaccination is the best protection against flu. Nurses get your flu vaccine and encourage other healthcare workers to do the same by sharing your flu vaccine selfies (#vaxselfies) on social media using the #VaxWithMe tag! Be sure to stop by the other NIVW relay participants’ blogs to learn about flu vaccination for everyone – tomorrow’s post will be hosted by our friends over at Voices for Vaccines.

Nurses Who Vaccinate are nurses and health care workers who care about themselves, patients and communities. Are you a pro-science nurse? Supporter of evidence-based nurses? Become a member-