Flu Kills
Anita Reecer, Infection Preventionist - October 21, 2016
I will never forget my third  flu season as Infection Preventionist (IP). This was the turning point when I gained a healthy respect for the flu. As Schneck's IP, one of my important roles during flu season is to monitor staff and patient vaccinations. Why do patients get a flu vaccine while they are in the hospital? Because hospitalized patients are at higher risk for complications from influenza, or the flu. 

Prior to admission our patient had been in good health. When a family member came home with the flu, no one knew it was a definitive moment in this family's life. In less than a week their loved one would be in the ICU with a tube down their throat fighting for their life. This was the year I thought I was going to report my first associated flu death and the patient was several years younger than me. The good news was this patient survived. The recovery to normal took months.

It is surprising to many that flu kills, but it does. The flu virus was blamed for more than 50,000 deaths within the US in 2014. Many of those were in high-risk groups: 65+, under the age of 4, and those with a chronic disease such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, COPD, and others.

What can we do?
  • Get your flu shot. I am a strong advocate of the flu vaccination. You need one each year at the beginning of flu season. It will take two weeks for your body to grow the antibodies to fight off the flu. The flu vaccine will not always stop you from getting the flu. If you get the flu, you may have symptoms that are not so severe. 
  • Wash your hands frequently and for at least 20 seconds (or two rounds of the Happy Birthday song)
  • Cover your cough
  • Don't go around people when you are sick