October 3, 2018

#Take3 Steps to #FightFlu

US Surgeon General Jerome M. Adams, MD, MPH joined medical/public health leaders at the annual NFID Influenza/Pneumococcal News Conference on September 27, 2018 to discuss the importance of preventing influenza (flu) and pneumococcal disease and to encourage all individuals age 6 months and older to get vaccinated against flu every year.

Adams was joined by an expert panel, moderated by NFID Medical Director William Schaffner, MD. Panelists included Wendy Sue L. Swanson, MD, MBE (Chief of Digital Innovation at Seattle Children’s Hospital) and Laura E. Riley, MD (Given Foundation Professor and Chair of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Weill Cornell Medicine).

Scott Gottlieb, MD, Commissioner of Food & Drugs at the US Food & Drug Administration, Daniel B. Jernigan, MD, MPH, Influenza Division Director at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and Joe Thomas, NFID Flu Ambassador and 2006 Outland Trophy Winner, also led by example and got vaccinated against flu at the news conference.

View the video of the news conference:

Experts discussed the impact of flu and pneumococcal disease and the importance of vaccination. The 2017-2018 flu season was especially severe—with an estimated 900,000 hospitalizations and 80,000 deaths.

Vaccination rates among children age 6 months to 17 years have fallen short of the 80% US public health goal for several previous flu seasons. Last season, rates dropped from 59% to 57.9%. The death toll for children during the 2017-2018 US flu season was a record-breaking 180—surpassing the previous high of 171 for a nonpandemic influenza season. Of note, most of the children who died last season were not vaccinated against flu.

Protecting children begins by protecting pregnant women. Influenza can cause more severe illness in pregnant women and flu symptoms, particularly fever, can also harm a developing baby. All women who are pregnant or planning to become pregnant should receive an influenza vaccine. During the 2017-2018 season, CDC estimates that nearly half (49.1 percent) of women who were pregnant were vaccinated.

US Surgeon General, Jerome M. Adams, MD, MPH, also noted that the 2017-2018 flu season was especially deadly for older adults and individuals with chronic medical conditions, such as heart and lung disease, diabetes, and obesity, as they are at high risk for flu-related complications. According to CDC, about 70% of hospitalizations and 90% of deaths last year occurred in those age 65 years and older.

Panelists also emphasized the CDC Take 3 approach to flu prevention

  1. Get vaccinated against flu each year
  2. Take everyday preventive actions to stop the spread of germs
  3. Take antiviral drugs if prescribed.

Influenza and pneumococcal vaccination are an important part of managing chronic diseases. By getting vaccinated against flu and pneumococcal disease, we can all do our part to stay healthy and interrupt the spread of these serious diseases.

Following the panel discussion and media Q&A, all attendees were encouraged to get their annual flu shots at the onsite vaccine clinic provided by Medstar Visiting Nurse Association.

4 Ways You Can Help #FightFlu

  1. Join the Leading By Example (LBE) initiative, calling on leaders in healthcare, business, education, and politics to lead by example by making a commitment to annual influenza prevention.
  2. Update your Facebook profile page with a #FightFlu frame featuring one of the images below. On your Facebook profile image, select Update Profile Picture, add frame, and search for #FightFluNFID Social Stickers
  3. Traveling Flu Bug SmallHelp spread awareness, not flu! Download and print out the Traveling Flu Bug, take a picture of the cutout in your hometown, office, school, or near an interesting landmark, and post it on social media using #TravelingFluBug and #FightFlu.
  4. Post a flu vaccine selfie on Twitter with the hashtag #FightFlu.

To join the conversation and get the latest news on infectious diseases, follow NFID on Twitter using the hashtag #FightFlu, like us on Facebook, follow us on Instagram, join the NFID Linkedin Group, and subscribe to NFID Updates.