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. 

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