As Australia nears the end of its worst flu season in years, experts fear that the United States will suffer a similar fate.
Researchers often look at data from the southern hemisphere, which typically experiences its flu season May through October, to predict how the flu will affect the U.S.
There have been 1,708 flu-related hospitalizations and 288 deaths associated with the virus in Australia so far this season. Compare that with just one flu-related hospitalization and zero deaths last year.
Cases are already rising in the U.S., with the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) reporting 1,686 cases of Influenza A and 80 cases of Influenza B for the week ending October 8.
So, what can you do to protect yourself and your facility occupants against the flu this fall and winter? Flagship recommends three strategies:
Know Your Risk
A 2018 CDC study published in Clinical Infectious Diseases looked at the percentage of the U.S. population who got sick with flu using two different methods and compared the findings. Both methods had similar findings, which suggested that on average, about 8 percent of the U.S. population gets sick from flu each season, with a range of between 3 percent and 11 percent, depending on the season.
The same study also found that children are most likely to get sick from flu, while people 65 and older are least likely to get sick from the virus.
But even healthy people get the flu, and some people are at higher risk of developing flu-related complications. This includes people 65 and older, people with chronic medical conditions, pregnant people, and children younger than 5 years.
Because seasonal incidence changes based on the severity of the flu season, it’s important to take preventative action against the flu and understand how to diagnose and treat the virus should it occur.
At the beginning of the year, the CDC released a report on a concerning drop in flu vaccination coverage among people at risk of flu complications. The misconception that COVID-19 vaccines also protect against the flu has contributed greatly to this trend.
Remember – The most important step in preventing the flu is to get a flu vaccine, which differs from the COVID-19 vaccine and booster. Dr. Rochelle Walensky, Director of the CDC, has urged Americans ages 6 months and up to get a flu shot by the end of October.
For convenience’s sake, you can get your flu shot and COVID booster simultaneously. Experts agree that it’s safe to do so (although you may experience more side effects, such as headache and fatigue).
Luckily, many of the same disinfectants that eliminate the COVID-19 virus in facilities are also used to combat the flu and germs that cause respiratory infection. Since steps for cleaning and guarding against COVID-19 have been implemented in facilities across the U.S., many of us are already well protected.
Actions such as staying away from people who are sick, covering your mouth when you cough or sneeze, and washing your hands frequently will also help to slow the spread of germs that cause COVID-19 and the flu.
Just updated for 2022, Flagship’s Stay Open Responsibly guide will answer your questions about how to create and maintain a healthy facility.