Surprised by Flu Season? You Shouldn’t Be.

America’s flu season is off to a terrible start. Each year, the CDC and UK’s National Health Service prepare for flu season, often based off of what happened during Australia’s flu season. This year, the flu strain that is causing the most significant issues, was one that did the same in Australia. This strain, H3N2 has earned the unfortunate nickname of the “Aussie flu.”

The Facts

  • California pharmacies have run out of flu medicine (Tamiflu).
  • 27 people under the age of 65 have died since October, compared to three in the same time frame last year.ED at UCLA Medical Center in Santa Monica had more than 200 patients one day this month, mostly due to the flu. The last time they had that many patients were after the Northridge earthquake in 1994.
  • H3N2, the strain of flu that is wreaking havoc, is not usually one the vaccine protects against. Flu experts say it is a particularly dangerous strain and the vaccine is only about 32% effective against it.
  • Dallas Methodist Hospital was inundated with flu patients early last week and was forced to reroute non-emergency patients to other hospitals. They’ve been able to continue accepting patients, but there is always concern an influx of flu patients could cause a similar situation in other hospitals around the country.

But, why?

Flu season runs every year from in fall and winter, though peak season is considered to be late November through March, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Flu shot campaigns begin as early as August, when doctors begin encouraging patients, especially those who are more susceptible to illness, to get immunized.

And, more importantly, why is flu season a surprise to anyone?

It happens every year, and every year it seems to catch the healthcare industry by surprise. The last flu pandemic was in 1968. BBC Radio talked about it in late 2016. We wrote about pandemic flu just a couple of months ago.

So what are we going to do better moving forward?

CPR’s Rick Christ says, “We can predict flu. We can monitor it. It moves more slowly than fire or flood, but it’s as serious (kills WAY more people each year than either) and since it moves slowly, we tend to be ‘surprised’ by its presence as it peaks each winter. We needn’t be. We know how to prevent/protect/mitigate.”
 
So, what is your healthcare organization doing to prevent the spread of flu? When do you start planning for the flu season?
Categories: Healthcare | Rebecca Alwine
Topics: Preparedness

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