Interesting Facts from the CDC (Center of Disease Control) on Influenza Prevention

By Sheila Kun RN, BSN, MS, CPN, FCCP

Most of us have been taking flu shots for years. Others might be resistant to the idea of getting a flu shot because “it doesn’t work”, or “I am pretty healthy, I never get sick”. That is why I feel it is worthwhile to spend some time on this topic so that we know what we are getting into. From the CDC’s policy statement on the prevention of influenza infection for 2019, I have found the following information that might be helpful for you to have a deeper understanding of this annual infection.

Influenza Viruses and You

Influenza viruses typically circulate in the United States annually, most commonly from late fall through early spring. Most persons who contract influenza recover without serious complications or sequelae. However, influenza can result in serious illness, hospitalization, and death, particularly among older adults, very young children, pregnant women, and persons with certain chronic medical conditions. Influenza illness also is an important cause of missed work and school. Routine annual influenza vaccination for all persons aged ≥6 months who do not have contraindications has been recommended by CDC and CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) since 2010.

Why Do You Need to be Vaccinated?

The effectiveness of influenza vaccines varies depending on several factors, such as the age and health of the recipient, the types and subtypes of circulating influenza viruses, and the degree of similarity between circulating viruses and those included in the vaccine. However, vaccination provides important protection from influenza illness and its potential complications. During the six influenza seasons from 2010–11 through 2015–16, influenza vaccination prevented an estimated 1.6–6.7 million illnesses, 790,000–3.1 million outpatient medical visits, 39,000–87,000 hospitalizations, and 3,000–10,000 respiratory and circulatory deaths each season in the United States. During the recent severe 2017–18 influenza season, notable for an unusually long duration of widespread high influenza activity throughout the United States and higher rates of outpatient visits and hospitalizations compared with recent seasons, vaccination is estimated to have prevented 7.1 million illnesses, 3.7 million medical visits, 109,000 hospitalizations, and 8,000 deaths, despite an overall estimated vaccine effectiveness of 38% (62% against influenza A[H1N1]pdm09 viruses, 22% against influenza A[H3N2] viruses, and 50% against influenza B viruses).

What Viruses Are included in the Vaccine each Year

Recommendations for the composition of Northern Hemisphere influenza vaccines are made by the World Health Organization (WHO), which organizes a consultation, generally in February of each year. Surveillance data are reviewed and candidate vaccine viruses are discussed. A summary of the WHO meetings of February 21, 2019, and March 21, 2019, for selection of the 2019–20 Northern Hemisphere vaccine viruses would be ready for the CDC’s final recommendation.

(Sheila’s note: The composition of what influenza viruses is based on the type of viruses present from the previous year, and a vigorous process among experts worldwide will determine what to  include in this year’s flu vaccine.)

Your homework from the Care Ministry this week: remind a friend to get the flu shot this week.

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