TMA Flu Fighters: Dec. 10, 2010

This is National Influenza Vaccination Week. Have you been doing your part to prevent influenza? Flu activity usually increases significantly after the holidays, and it is especially important to remind patients now is the ideal time to get vaccinated.    

Flu Season Is Underway
Flu activity is still relatively low but increasing throughout the country. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that this season’s vaccine seems to be a good match for the three strains of influenza currently circulating. Although CDC surveys estimate one in three Americans already have been vaccinated, it is important to continue promoting vaccination through the winter months. Remember, you are one of your patients’ most valuable resources when it comes to preventing and treating the flu by focusing on the following: 

  • Talking to your patients, staff, and families about getting immunized now (plenty of vaccine is available),
  • Encouraging your patients to use common-sense precautions to reduce their chances of getting the flu, and
  • Planning for early use of antivirals for high-risk patients when flu is in the community during the next several months.  

Are Your Patients at Greater Risk for Flu Complications?
Your patients with medical conditions including diabetes, asthma, morbid obesity, and heart disease are at higher risk for complications from the flu. Consider emphasizing the importance of vaccination among these patients by:  

  • Recommending vaccination at every high-risk patient encounter,
  • Scheduling vaccine clinics for dedicated outreach to these patients, and
  • Issuing standing orders to vaccinate any patients with diabetes and other chronic conditions.

Pregnant Women and Influenza
You play a key role in your pregnant patients’ decision to be vaccinated. In fact, pregnant women were more likely to be vaccinated if their physician or health care provider offered it, according to a CDC survey recently published. The TMA Flu Fighters want you to encourage your pregnant patients to get vaccinated. CDC has offered some key points to include in your discussion with your pregnant patients:   

  • Influenza is more likely to cause severe illness in pregnant women than in women who are not pregnant.
  • Pregnant women with influenza are at increased risk for premature labor and delivery.
  • Vaccination during pregnancy protects both mother and baby from infection.
  • The inactivated vaccine is safe for pregnant women and can be given during any trimester.

If you are not able to vaccinate your pregnant patient, offer her information on where she can get flu vaccine — primary care clinics, local health departments, and commercial pharmacies. Tdap also is available at the same places, without a prescription.  

Coming Soon: TMA Flu Fighters Hotline
A new tool is coming your way soon to help address questions you may have on how to test and treat your patients with influenza symptoms.  

Who Are the Flu Fighters?
Wendy Chung, MD, MSPH, is Dallas County Health and Human Services’ chief epidemiologist. Donald Murphey, MD, is medical director of pediatric infectious disease at Cook Children’s Medical Center in Fort Worth. Susan Penfield, MD, is manager of the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) Infectious Disease Control Unit. Bob Kaspar, MD, is an adult infectious disease physician consultant for DSHS.

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