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Every year, influenza infections cause a loss of productivity and a rise in health care costs. Worldwide, seasonal influenza causes an estimated 3 million to 5 million severe cases and up to 500,000 deaths each year. Studies show that, in a typical influenza season in the United States (U.S.), 5% to 20% of the population becomes ill with influenza, more than 200,000 are hospitalized and around 36,000 die.
Annual influenza epidemics in the northern hemisphere correlate with an increase in all-cause mortality. Despite these sobering statistics, influenza vaccination rates in the U.S. remain below 50%.
While influenza is typically self-limiting, it can cause serious medical complications and death, even in healthy individuals. In special populations — such as individuals diagnosed with cancer, diagnosed with diabetes, over the age of 65 or with a BMI greater than 40; pregnant women; children under the age of 5; and infants under six months old — the risk is even higher.
During the 2017-2018 influenza season, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported a record 183 laboratory-confirmed influenza-associated pediatric deaths. Approximately 80% of these children had not been vaccinated against influenza. This was a high-severity season with record influenza hospital rates and elevated pneumonia and influenza mortality for 16 weeks.
A survey of pregnant women aged 18-49 years of age during the 2018-2019 flu season revealed that only 54% received an influenza vaccination. Getting a flu shot reduces a pregnant woman’s risk of being hospitalized for the flu by 40%, and her flu shot reduces the risk of hospitalization due to influenza in an infant younger than 6 months old by an average of 72%.
The unpredictable nature of influenza from season to season requires nurse practitioners (NPs) to be vigilant in vaccinating patients and in detecting influenza for prompt treatment, especially in high-risk populations. Learn more about what other health care providers are doing to fight the flu in their communities with the CDC’s Flu Fighters, featuring AANP member Lacey Eden, MS, FNP-C! See how you can get involved and become a Flu Fighter today.
December 1–7 is National Influenza Vaccination Week, and the American Association of Nurse Practitioners® (AANP) is excited to bring you a new continuing education (CE) activity on influenza: Influenza Update and Review. Designed to educate NPs on precision vaccination for influenza, as well as the testing and treatment of influenza, this activity also offers case studies for NPs to review influenza vaccination in practice.
In addition, the CDC has released its annual update on the vaccines for the 2019-2020 flu season:
“2019–20 U.S. trivalent influenza vaccines will contain hemagglutinin (HA) derived from an A/Brisbane/02/2018 (H1N1)pdm09–like virus, an A/Kansas/14/2017 (H3N2)–like virus, and a B/Colorado/06/2017–like virus (Victoria lineage). Quadrivalent influenza vaccines will contain HA derived from these three viruses and from an additional influenza B vaccine virus, a B/Phuket/3073/2013–like virus (Yamagata lineage). This composition includes updates in the influenza A(H1N1)pdm09 and influenza A(H3N2) components of the vaccine.”
The CDC also offers a Weekly U.S. Influenza Surveillance Report that provides up-to-date statistics on seasonal influenza activity in the U.S. Visit this page often to stay informed on outbreaks, clinical tests and virus characterization!