The fact that my son has come down with his first "viral" infection of the Fall and I just finished reading an article by Wong et al published in Pediatrics titled "Influenza-Associated Pediatric Deaths in the United States, 2004−2012" seemed a good enough reason to tackle infection prevention practices for the flu. But first, let me highlight some of the facts uncovered in the study:
1. Between 2004 & 2013 the CDC logged 830 flu deaths in children younger than 18.
2. 43% of the children who died, did not have underlying conditions that put them at risk for flu complications.
3. A disproportionate number of flu deaths were seen in kids with underlying conditions such as asthma (there are currently 7.1 Million children in the US who have asthma).
4. Previously healthy youngsters appeared to die more quickly than those who had underlying conditions—one-third died within 3 days of symptom onset. Pneumonia was the most frequent complication.
5. Few of the children who died were vaccinated against flu.
First off, the flu is NOT a gastro or intestinal bug. Influenza is a highly contagious respiratory disease caused by an Influenza virus. Unlike the common cold, the flu usually comes on suddenly and most people will often feel some or all of these symptoms:
• Fever or feeling feverish/chills (but not EVERYONE will have a fever)
• Sore throat
• Runny or stuffy nose
• Muscle or body aches
• Fatigue (tiredness)
• Some people may have vomiting and diarrhea, though this is more common in children than adults.
People with flu can spread it by coughing, sneezing or TALKING to others up to about 6 feet away! The droplets "excreted" by someone carrying the flu can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs. People can also get flu by touching a surface or object that has flu virus on it and then touching their own mouth or nose.
This is where my favorite INTERVENTION strategies come in to play:
1. Cleaning: Environmental surfaces should be cleaned and disinfected frequently with an EPA or Health Canada approved disinfectant. Access to Pre-moistened wipes that can be easily used without need for PPE is a great way to include not just nursing and environmental services staff as the primary parties for cleaning and disinfection. Visitors, patients and students (for schools) can also do their part in helping to keep the environment clean and flu free!
2. Hand Hygiene: Wash hands often with soap and water. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.
3. Vaccination: The annual Flu shot can help reduce your chance of getting seasonal flu by 80%. The flu kills, why chance yours or a loved one's life!
According to the WHO, Influenza A H3N2 is the predominant strain in circulation this year. Check out the WHO Influenza website for the latest flu trends and Influenza activity from around the world.
Stay safe this FLU SEASON!