2015 Influenza Update: Ministry Health Care Urges Community to Do Their Part to Prevent Spread of Illness
With increasing levels of Influenza and other viral illnesses throughout the state, Ministry Health Care is urging all people to take an active role in preventing the spread of these illnesses. Often overlooked, the best way to prevent the spread of illness and disease is by practicing good hand hygiene, covering your cough and by staying home from work or school if you are not feeling well. Additionally, individuals displaying symptoms of influenza-like illness should avoid visits to medical facilities unless seeking medical care or treatment.
Flu symptoms include fever, cough, body aches, sore throat or runny nose. Those seeking care at medical facilities should wear a mask, which is provided at entrances to facilities throughout the system. These “Cough Kiosks” also have tissues and hand sanitizer to help contain the spread of disease. Those visiting hospitalized flu patients should wear a hospital mask, and wash hands with soap and water for 15 seconds or use alcohol-based hand rub before entering and exiting the patient’s room. Persons who live with flu patients are also asked to practice good hand hygiene and routinely clean surfaces in areas like the kitchen and bathroom that often provide easy access for the spread of bacteria.
The flu (influenza) is an infection of the nose, throat, and lungs caused by influenza viruses. Flu viruses cause illness, hospital stays, and death in the United States each year. There are many different flu viruses and sometimes a new flu virus emerges to make people ill. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends a yearly flu vaccine as the first and most important step in protecting against this serious disease. You can take everyday preventive steps like staying away from sick people and washing your hands to reduce the spread of germs. If you are sick with flu, stay home from work or school to prevent spreading influenza to others.
Schedule your annual flu vaccine today by contacting one of our locations below. Flu vaccinations cost $30.00. Ask your provider for information about the Flu Mist nasal vaccine. Continue to check back for updates on vaccination availability in your community.
Frequently Asked Questions about Influenza Season
When will flu activity begin and when will it peak?
The timing of flu is very unpredictable and can vary from season to season. Flu activity most commonly peaks in the U.S. in January or February. However, seasonal flu activity can occur as late as May.
What should I do to prepare for this flu season?
CDC recommends a yearly flu vaccine for everyone as the first and most important step in protecting against this serious disease. While there are many different flu viruses, the flu vaccine is designed to protect against the three main flu strains that research indicates will cause the most illness during the flu season.
How effective is the flu vaccine?
The effectiveness of the vaccine can vary and depends in part on the match between the viruses in the vaccine and flu viruses that are circulating in the community. If these are closely matched, vaccine effectiveness (VE) is higher. If they are not closely matched, VE can be reduced. During well-matched years, clinical trials have shown VE between 70% and 90% among healthy adults. For more information about vaccine effectiveness, visit “How Well Does the Seasonal Flu Vaccine Work?”
Will this season’s vaccine be a good match for circulating viruses?
It’s not possible to predict with certainty which flu viruses will predominate during a given season. Flu viruses are constantly changing (called drift) – they can change from one season to the next or they can even change within the course of one flu season. Experts must pick which viruses to include in the vaccine many months in advance in order for vaccine to be produced and delivered on time. (For more information about the vaccine virus selection process visit “Selecting the Viruses in the Influenza (Flu) Vaccine.”) Because of these factors, there is always the possibility of a less than optimal match between circulating viruses and the viruses in the vaccine.
How do we know if there is a good match between the vaccine viruses and those causing illness?
Over the course of a flu season CDC studies samples of flu viruses circulating during that season to evaluate how close a match there is between viruses in the vaccine and circulating viruses. In addition, CDC conducts vaccine effectiveness studies to determine how well the vaccine protects against illness. However, it’s important to remember that even during seasons when the vaccine is not optimally matched to predominant circulating viruses, CDC and other experts continue to recommend flu vaccine as the best way to protect against the flu.
Can the vaccine provide protection even if the vaccine is not a “good” match?
Yes, antibodies made in response to vaccination with one strain of flu viruses can provide protection against different, but related strains. A less than ideal match may result in reduced vaccine effectiveness against the variant viruses, but it can still provide some protection against influenza illness. In addition, it's important to remember that the flu vaccine contains three virus strains so that even when there is a less than ideal match or lower effectiveness against one strain, the vaccine may protect against the other two viruses. For these reasons, even during seasons when there is a less than ideal match, CDC continues to recommend flu vaccination. This is particularly important for people at high risk for serious flu complications, and their close contacts.
In what years was there a good match between the vaccine and the circulating viruses?
In recent years the match between the vaccine viruses and those identified during the flu season has usually been good. In 16 of the last 20 U.S. influenza seasons the viruses in the influenza vaccine have been well matched to the predominant circulating viruses. Since 1990, there has only been one season (1997-98) when there was very low cross-reaction between the viruses in the vaccine and the predominate circulating virus, and three seasons (1992-93, 2003-04, and 2007-08) when there was low cross-reaction.
What is CDC doing to monitor vaccine effectiveness for the 2015-2016 season?
CDC conducts studies to measure the benefits of seasonal flu vaccination each flu season to help determine how well flu vaccines are working. These vaccine effectiveness (VE) studies regularly assess and confirm the value of flu vaccination as a public health intervention. Study results of vaccine effectiveness can vary based on study design, outcome(s) measured, population studied and the season in which the flu vaccine was studied.
CDC has been working with researchers at universities and hospitals since the 2003-2004 flu season to estimate how well flu vaccine works through observational studies using laboratory-confirmed flu as the outcome. This is the U.S. Flu Vaccine Effectiveness (VE) Network. The U.S. Flu VE Network currently consists of five study sites across the United States that measure the flu vaccine’s effectiveness at preventing outpatient medical visits due to laboratory-confirmed influenza. CDC’s observational studies at U.S. Flu VE Network sites measure outpatient visits* for laboratory-confirmed influenza infections using a highly accurate lab test called rRT-PCR to verify the outcome. These studies compare the odds of vaccination among outpatients with acute respiratory illness and laboratory-confirmed influenza infection to the odds of vaccination among outpatients with acute respiratory illness who test negative for influenza infection.
The overall, adjusted vaccine effectiveness estimates for influenza seasons can be found at cdc.gov
What actions can I take to protect myself and my family against the flu this season?
CDC recommends a yearly flu vaccine as the first and most important step in protecting against this serious disease. You can take everyday preventive steps like staying away from sick people and washing your hands to reduce the spread of germs. If you are sick with flu, stay home from work or school to prevent spreading influenza to others.
Source: Center for Disease Control and Prevention
When available, more information will be provided. For future updates contact the regional hotline numbers:
- Ministry Medical Group (central region) 715.342.7544
- Rib Mountain
- Stevens Point
- Ministry Medical Group (northern region) 715.361.4300 or 888.678.7988
- Eagle River