Saturday, December 17, 2016

An Important Change this Flu Season: The Injectable Vaccine is Better than the Nasal Spray

Each year, the Centers for Disease control recommends that all healthy people ages 6 months and older get their annual influenza vaccines as early into the season as possible.
For this 2016-2017 influenza season, there is one important change: everyone should get the injectable form instead of the live nasal mist vaccine which may not be as effective. 

Influenza can be deadly for everyone but especially for children, older adults and those who are immunocompromised. The CDC estimates that about 114,000 people are hospitalized each year for influenza.

It’s very challenging to determine the number of deaths which may be attributed to influenza but the CDC estimates CDC estimates that the number of influenza-related deaths can range from as low as 3,000 to as high as 49,000 people each influenza season.

The annual influenza season typically begins around October but varies based on the first reported cases of influenza. During most influenza seasons, flu activity generally peaks between December and March. During some seasons, positive cases of influenza have continued as late as May.
To build immunity before flu season peaks in the winter, the CDC recommends that flu vaccines be offered as early as possible and flu vaccines are generally available in late August or early September.
Some people worry that if they get the flu vaccine too early into the season that it won’t be effective for the duration of the season. For most healthy adults under age 65, getting the vaccine as early as possible helps to ensure your immune system has time to build an adequate response and that your protection lasts throughout the flu season.
For older adults above the age of 65, their immunity to the flu vaccine may start to decrease throughout the season so FLUAD, a higher dose vaccine with an added adjuvant to enhance the immune response, is recommended for this age group.
It’s especially important that healthcare workers and anyone who works closely with young children or young adults get their annual flu vaccines to ensure that we don’t inadvertently contract influenza and spread it to these vulnerable populations.

As a Registered Nurse, I provide care for many adults whose immune systems are compromised due to current infections or diseases such as COPD, diabetes and cardiac dysfunction. I got my flu vaccine at work early September, and of course, I took my third annual FluShotSelfie since I’ve become a nurse. I always encourage my coworkers to get their flu vaccines as early as possible and encourage them to post their vaccine selfies as well.
I offer the flu vaccine to each and every one of my eligible patients and offer education to them when they are feeling hesitant or unsure about whether they actually need the vaccine. “Are you alive?” I jokingly ask my patients. When they reply, “yes,” I always smile and tell them that the flu vaccine is definitely for them, then!
Whether you’re working with patients or not, getting a flu vaccine each year is a fantastic way to protect yourselves, your families and your communities!
If you do choose to get your flu shot, be sure to share it with us or post a picture to your social media accounts and use the following hashtags:

Friday, December 9, 2016

Silly Rabbit, Flu Shots Aren't Just For Kids!

Growing up, I used to hide the Trix cereal from my parents. In my defense, I was only following the directions from the advertisements I saw on television. You know the ones. The Trix commercials featured a rabbit, whose name is 'coincidentally' Tricks, and in every commercial he continually attempted to trick children into giving him a bowl of cereal. He was discovered every time; and the kids who would reclaim the cereal would say, "Silly rabbit, Trix are for kids!"
So of course, I'd hide the cereal and when my parents would find it, behind the couch, in the closet, under the table... I'd tell them, "Silly dad, Trix are for kids, not dads!"

Flash forward several years later, I'm chatting with a friend who is the parent of young children. She mentions that her children had just received their flu shots and were most upset that the doctor's office was out of stickers than the actual administration of the vaccine itself. I asked her when she was planning on getting hers, and she looked me, like I was being silly and said, "Flu shots are just for kids, I don't need one, right?"

With that, I went into nurse-mode and responded, "You don't need one if you don't mind chancing a risk of contracting the flu virus, getting sick and possibly transmitting to your family, and yes even those who have been vaccinated, are still at risk. People of every age, including people in good health, are at risk of flu." She was shocked, because like others, she thought the influenza vaccine was just recommended for children and immunocompromised patients. I gave her a bit more information about influenza. Like how the CDC recommends that everyone 6 months and older should get a flu vaccine every year by the end of October, if possible. I told her, getting vaccinated later is OK.  It's not too late to vaccinate throughout the flu season, even in January or later. I also shared that although a majority of hospitalizations and deaths occur in people 65 years and older, even healthy young children and younger adults can have severe disease or even die from influenza.

Which brings us to this year's National Influenza Vaccination Week's 2016 key message- It's not too late to get a flu shot and everyone should get one.

With the holiday season among us, we're spending time with loved ones, participating in community events and ultimately taking part in activities that allow for an easy transmission of the flu virus. Flu activity is usually highest between December and February, though activity can last as late as May. As long as flu activity is ongoing, it’s not too late to get vaccinated, even in January or later.

As a nurse, I frequently tell my patients and my friends that not only does a flu vaccine protect you, it also protects your loved ones from the flu. Getting vaccinated protests those around you, including
those who are more vulnerable to serious flu illness, like babies and young children, older people, and
people with certain chronic health conditions.

The flu virus is spread mostly by direct contact and droplets. When a sick person coughs or sneezes, virus droplets can travel six feet or more. If you're in close quarters, like most families, one sick family member will very easily transmit the virus to other family members.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “most healthy adults are able to infect other people beginning day before symptoms develop and up to 5 to 7 days after becoming sick.”

As per the CDC, community immunity is “When a critical portion of a community is immunized against a contagious disease, most members of the community are protected against that disease because there is little opportunity for an outbreak. Even those who are not eligible for certain vaccines — such as very young infants or immunocompromised individuals — get some protection because the spread of contagious disease is contained.”

When the overwhelming majority of people are vaccinated, our communities are kept safe. Do your part, protect your family by getting your yearly influenza vaccine. Take it from Nurses Who Vaccinate members, who know that unlike breakfast cereal, Flu Shots aren't just for kids!

"As a nurse, I take my role as a patient advocate seriously. Advocating for my patients also means protecting them, which is why I always get my annual flu shot. Getting vaccinated against the flu keeps me safe and helps prevent the spread of infection to the vulnerable people that I'm caring for during my shifts. The flu can be deadly for anyone of any age, and getting vaccinated is a great way to keep the entire community safe!" -Angela Daly, RN, Cardiac Float Nurse

"I'm a single mother of one. My fully vaccinated daughter learned the value of vaccines when she had the flu at age 6 in 1992. When she was well enough, I explained how she could prevent becoming so ill. Not only does she stay up-to-date on vaccines including an annual flu shot as an adult, she chose to participate in HPV trials while away at college." -Joan E, DrPH, RN, School Nurse

"As a rural nurse in Mexico I saw firsthand pain and sorrow of mothers who lost a child to a vaccine preventable disease. Later, as an educator and mother of three, I was the first one to get vaccinate annually against the flu and I made sure the my children understood the importance of being fully vaccinate to protect them from deadly diseases when they were younger. They learn that having their annual flu shots will protect them from flu and for spreading infections to others. Educating the mothers about the importance of vaccines is a must and a responsibility to keep our families healthy and our communities free of diseases." -Felisa Hilbert, RN, Global Health advocate.

"As a former Oncology nurse, turned NICU nurse, I have cared for many patients who are immunocompromised, and cannot receive vaccines. I vaccinate my family because vaccination not only protect them against diseases, it helps build herd immunity to protect those who truly are unable to be vaccinated, because they are either too young or too immunocompromised." -Ashley Balestriere, BSN, RN, Neonatal Intensive Care Nurse

"My family of four, plus one furry friend, is fully protected against vaccine-preventable disease. Whooping cough is currently circulating in our community, and I'm relieved to know that we have done everything we can to insure that our family will be healthy, and that we've done our bit to stop its spread." - Leah Russin, mom, lawyer, community member. 

It's not too late to get a flu shot!
CDC kicked off their NIVW Blog-a-thon on Monday, December 5. Checkout other participating blogs here. Share your own post on social media using the hashtag #NIVW2016 and #fightflu, and download your own CDC Flu Blog-a-thon badge, here ( !