For millions of people every flu season, the flu can mean a fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle aches, fatigue, and miserable days spent in bed. However, the flu can be more serious. On average, more than 200,000 people are hospitalized each year in the United States due to flu complications.
But there is a way to prevent the flu. The flu vaccine is recommended annually for everyone 6 months and older as the first and most important step to prevent influenza disease. Each year in the United States, approximately $10.4 billion is spent in direct costs for hospitalizations and outpatient visits for adults related to flu illness. Flu vaccination can reduce flu illnesses, doctors’ visits, missed work due to flu, and flu-related hospitalizations. This year, more than 132.7 million doses of 2015-2016 flu vaccine have been distributed across the country. This season’s vaccine has been updated to better match circulating influenza viruses.
National Influenza Vaccination Week is a national observance that was established to highlight the importance of continuing influenza vaccination and is December 6-12, 2015. Local health departments can use this week to remind their communities about the importance of flu vaccination to protect themselves and loved ones. While many people have already been vaccinated, it’s important to continue to promote the flu vaccine and continue vaccination efforts because influenza activity peaks between November and March each year. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offers materials for National Influenza Vaccination Week. Included on the website are matte articles, flyers, posters, and toolkits to use during National Influenza Vaccination Week. In addition to these resources, new tools are also available to help local health departments track influenza and immunization activities in their communities.
Ever wonder how your community is doing when it comes to influenza vaccination? The Department of Health and Human Services created an interactive mapping tool that live-tracks flu vaccination of Medicare beneficiaries down to the zip-code level. While this tool only tracks Medicare influenza vaccination claims, it provides an idea of vaccination coverage in your community.
In addition to keeping a pulse on influenza vaccinations administered in your community, the CDC also provides resources to find where influenza vaccines are being administered in your community. The Flu Vaccine Finder locates flu vaccine clinics near you; simply enter a zip code or city and state to find mapped locations of flu vaccine clinics. Widgets and banners for the Flu Vaccine Finder are available here to post on your website.
While continuing to vaccinate during flu season, surveillance also remains important. Flu Near You is one weapon in the arsenal of a health department when tracking and combatting illness in the community. Flu Near You is a participatory surveillance system, engaging the general public directly in reporting on their health. A weekly email asks participants to answer a brief survey through the website or the mobile application. The survey consists of a set of ten symptoms and if users report any symptoms, a few follow up questions appear, including the date of onset. Answers that meet the definition of influenza-like-illness (ILI) are displayed on a digital map showing ILI rates in a given area.
NACCHO has been engaging with several local health departments to explore how Flu Near You can supplement traditional surveillance systems, and through ongoing conversations it became clear that to make this tool most successful, it is necessary to build up a local user base. To help local health departments and other partners who are looking to use and promote Flu Near You in their communities, NACCHO created Flu Near You: A Guide to Engaging in Participatory Disease Surveillance. It contains general resources about participatory disease surveillance systems, information about Flu Near You, resources for integrating Flu Near You into existing programmatic efforts, and materials to use for promoting the tool.
The flu vaccine can save lives, prevent severe morbidity, and lower healthcare costs, so take advantage of National Influenza Vaccination Week and promote the flu vaccine in your community. Additional information and resources are available at http://www.cdc.gov/flu/nivw/.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Make It Your Business to Fight The Flu. Retrieved December 1, 2015, from http://www.cdc.gov/flu/pdf/business/toolkit_seasonal_flu_for_businesses_and_employers.pdf
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Seasonal Influenza Vaccine and Total Doses Distributed. Retrieved December 1, 2015, from http://www.cdc.gov/flu/professionals/vaccination/vaccinesupply.htm