Preparing for the Influenza Season
by Tim Greene – Risk and Loss Control Consultant – Districts Mutual Insurance

What sort of flu season is expected this year?
Flu seasons are unpredictable in a number of ways.  Although epidemics of flu happen every year, the timing, severity, and length of the epidemic depends on many factors, including what influenza viruses are spreading and whether they match the viruses in the vaccine.

Will new strains of flu circulate this season?
Flu viruses are constantly changing so it’s not unusual for new flu virus strains to appear each year. 
 
When will flu activity begin and when will it peak?
The timing of flu is very unpredictable and can vary from season to season. Flu activity most commonly peaks in the U.S. in January or February. However, seasonal flu activity can begin as early as October and continue to occur as late as May.

What should I do to prepare for this flu season?
CDC recommends a yearly “flu vaccine” for everyone 6 months of age and older as the first and most important step in protecting against this serious disease. While there are many different flu viruses, the flu vaccine is designed to protect against the three main flu strains that research indicates will cause the most illness during the flu season.

For information about which viruses this season’s vaccine will protect against visit http://www.cdc.gov/flu/protect/keyfacts.htm  Getting the flu vaccine as soon as it becomes available each year is always a good idea. The protection you get from the vaccination will last throughout the flu season.

How effective is the flu vaccine?
Inactivated influenza vaccine effectiveness (VE) can vary from year to year and among different age and risk groups.

For more information about vaccine effectiveness, visit http://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/qa/vaccineeffect.htm
 
Will this season’s vaccine be a “good match” for circulating viruses?
Flu viruses are constantly changing (called drift) – they can change from one season to the next or they can even change within the course of one flu season. For more
information about the vaccine virus selection process visit http://www.cdc.gov/flu/protect/keyfacts.htm
 
Can the vaccine provide protection even if the vaccine is not a “good match”?
Yes, antibodies made in response to vaccination with one strain of flu viruses can provide protection against different, but related strains. Even during seasons when there is a less than ideal match, CDC continues to recommend flu vaccination. This is particularly important for people at high risk for serious flu complications and their close contacts. Learn more at http://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/disease/high_risk.htm.

What actions can I take to protect myself and my family against the flu this season?
CDC recommends a yearly flu vaccine for everyone 6 months of age and older. In addition, you can take the everyday preventive steps found at http://www.cdc.gov/flu/protect/habits.htm like staying away from sick people and washing your hands to reduce the spread of germs. If you are sick with flu, stay home from work or school to prevent spreading influenza to others.

Is there treatment for the flu?
Yes. If you get sick, there are drugs that can treat flu illness.  They are called antiviral drugs and they can make your illness milder and make you feel better faster. They also can prevent serious flu–related complications, like pneumonia. For more information about antiviral drugs, visit http://www.cdc.gov/flu/antivirals/ 
 
What is antiviral resistance?
“Antiviral resistance” means that a virus has changed in such a way that the antiviral drug is less effective in treating or preventing illness. Samples of viruses collected from around the United States and worldwide are studied to determine if they are resistant to any of the four FDA–approved influenza antiviral drugs.  To learn more on influenza or find more facts for your prevention/education campaign – visit the CDC website http://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/season/index.htm

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