Medjet Update: Influenza Report – Actions to Fight the Flu

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By: John Gobbels
MedjetAssist VP/COO

It’s that time of year again and we are seeing multiple member calls about Flu related illnesses and hospitalizations.

According to the CDC’s FluView report, influenza activity in the U.S. remains high but there are early signs that activity has begun to decrease in parts of the country. While influenza-like-illness (ILI) and the percentage of respiratory specimens testing positive for flu declined in the most recent report, severity indicators used to track hospitalizations and deaths rose sharply. It’s typical for increases in ILI to be followed by increases in hospitalizations and then subsequently increases in deaths. While early data indicates that this season’s vaccine is not working as well as usual against circulating H3N2 viruses, the CDC continues to recommend vaccination.

It’s common for other influenza viruses to circulate later in the season and flu vaccines are designed to protect against three or four influenza viruses. However, because the vaccine is offering reduced protection, prompt treatment with flu antiviral drugs for people who are hospitalized, very sick with flu, or people who are at high risk of serious flu complications is especially important this season.

The CDC is recommending “Take 3” Actions to fight the Flu.

(1) Take time to get a Flu vaccine

  • CDC recommends a yearly flu vaccine as the first and most important step in protecting against flu viruses.
  • While there are many different flu viruses, a flu vaccine protects against the three or four viruses that research suggests will be most common.
  • Flu vaccination can reduce flu illnesses, doctors’ visits, and missed work and school due to flu, as well as prevent flu-related hospitalizations and deaths.
  • Everyone 6 months of age and older should get a flu vaccine as soon as the current season’s vaccines are available.
  • Vaccination of high risk persons is especially important to decrease their risk of severe flu illness.
  • People at high risk of serious flu complications include young children, pregnant women, people with chronic health conditions like asthma, diabetes or heart and lung disease and people 65 years and older.
  • Vaccination is also important for health care workers and other people who live with or care for high risk people to keep from spreading flu to high risk people.
  • Children younger than 6 months are at high risk of serious flu illness, but are too young to be vaccinated. People who care for them should be vaccinated instead.

(2) Take preventative actions to stop the spread of germs

  • Try to avoid close contact with sick people.
  • If you are sick with flu-like illness, CDC recommends that you stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone except to get medical care or for other necessities. (Your fever should be gone without the use of a fever-reducing medicine.) You should not be traveling!
  • While sick, limit contact with others as much as possible to keep from infecting them.
  • Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. Germs spread this way.
  • Clean and disinfect surfaces and objects that may be contaminated with germs like the flu.

(3) Take Flu antiviral drugs if your doctor prescribes them.

  • If you get the flu, antiviral drugs can treat your illness.
  • Antiviral drugs are different from antibiotics. They are prescription medicines (pills, liquid or an inhaled powder) and are not available over-the-counter.
  • Antiviral drugs can make illness milder and shorten the time you are sick. They may also prevent serious flu complications. Treatment with an antiviral drug can mean the difference between having a milder illness versus a very serious illness that could result in a hospital stay.
  • Studies show that flu antiviral drugs work best for treatment when they are started within 2 days of getting sick, but starting them later can still be helpful, especially if the sick person has a high-risk health condition or is very sick from the flu. Follow your doctor’s instructions for taking this drug.
  • Flu-like symptoms include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue. Some people also may have vomiting and diarrhea. People may be infected with the flu, and have respiratory symptoms without a fever.

Remember, as a Medjet member you have a team of experts standing ready to help in the event of an illness or injury.

Travel safe, travel smart and always carry your Medjet card!