National Influenza Vaccination Week

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This week, December 7-13, is National Influenza Vaccination Week. So, if you’ve not rolled up your sleeve and received your shot yet, now’s the time. That is, if you’re going to fend off certain strains of the virus.

Unfortunately, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is now reporting that this year’s vaccine may be less effective against the dominant strain – a mutant flu – that is now drifting across the country.

Known as H3N2, this “class A” virus can be quite severe, especially for those who have weakened immune systems and respiratory problems; people over 65 with heart or lung disease; and children under the age of two. It usually results in more hospitalizations and flu-related complications, such as pneumonia, or worse, death, than other, more common B or C strains.

This is especially troubling given the CDC estimates about 24,000 Americans die from complications from the flu each year already.

If you think you’re immune from the flu (whether you’ve been vaccinated or not), think again. Nearly 61 million cases, resulting in 274,304 hospitalizations and 12,469 deaths in the U.S. alone, were reported during the H1N1, or swine flu, outbreak in 2009-2010. This particular strain is now a regular human flu virus and continues to circulate seasonally worldwide, as do many others. In fact, the CDC has characterized 132 influenza viruses collected by U.S. laboratories since October 1, 2014.

So brace yourself for what looks like is going to be a nasty flu season. Encourage employees to exercise these simple preventive measures in addition to inoculation.

– Cover your nose and mouth when you sneeze or cough
– Stay away from those who are sick with the flu
– Wash your hands often, especially after you cough or sneeze
– Keep your hands away from your face so you don’t spread germs
– If you fall ill, stay home from work, school, shopping malls, etc.

Of course, the latter is much easier said than done, given it’s now the holiday season and most employers (and employees) are feeling the year-end crunch. Just exercise caution.

And remember, flu season doesn’t usually peak until January or February, so we’re nowhere near seeing the tip of the proverbial iceberg. Follow the CDC’s U.S. surveillance reports online at https://www.cdc.gov/flu/weekly to see when you and your organization may be most at risk.