While the temperatures have been milder than normal in Pennsylvania recently, and flu cases have been sporadic, flu activity most commonly peaks in the U.S. between December and February and flu season can last as late as May. As physicians know, the flu can be a serious ― even life-threatening― illness.
Pennsylvania Physician General and Pennsylvania Medical Society (PAMED) member Rachel Levine, MD, discussed the state’s “Stopping the Flu Starts with YOU” campaign at a press conference held in partnership with PAMED at the Philadelphia County Medical Society on Dec. 21. Dr. Levine highlighted the importance of getting a flu vaccine and practicing preventive measures.
Charles Cutler, MD, PAMED president-elect, also spoke at the press conference about the importance of health care professionals fighting the spread of flu within health care settings. In addition, he offered some thoughts for the public as well.
“For those who haven’t received a flu shot and do not have a medical excuse, it’s not too late,” he said. “Talk to your doctor. Look for a clinic. Or find a local pharmacy that offers shots. Unfortunately, some will get sick. And, rest assured that health care teams and, if needed, emergency departments across the state will be there for you. But Pennsylvania residents can decrease their odds of being a flu statistic while minimalizing the risk to others by taking some basic preventative actions.”
Have patients that are on the fence about getting the flu vaccine? These talking points may help:
- The single best way to protect against the flu is to get vaccinated every year.
- One benefit of vaccines, like the flu vaccine, is they will protect you and everyone who comes into contact with you.
- As long as flu viruses are circulating in the community, it’s not too late to get vaccinated.
- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend a yearly flu vaccine for everyone six months of age and older as the first and most important step in protecting against influenza disease.
- Getting a flu vaccine will protect your most vulnerable family members:
- Infants and children
- Pregnant women
- Those with disabilities
- Those with compromised immune systems (asthma, diabetes, heart conditions)
In addition to getting a flu vaccine, remind your patients to take everyday precautions to avoid spreading the flu to others. These include:
- Wash your hands often with soap and warm water to reduce the spread of germs – the rule of thumb is to do this long enough to sing the “Happy Birthday” song twice. The conference also included a hand-washing demonstration.
- Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve – never your hand;
- Avoid touching your face – keep your hands away from your mouth, nose, and eyes
- Clean frequently used surfaces like phones, doorknobs, remotes, light switches, and countertops often
- Stay home from work or school if you get sick to prevent spreading the flu to others.
“As families gather for the holiday season, the Department of Health encourages everyone to get a flu vaccine to protect yourself and your loved ones,” said Secretary of Health Karen Murphy, RN, PhD. “We encourage all Pennsylvanians to protect yourself and your family against the flu this holiday season, especially those with weakened immune systems and those who cannot get a flu vaccine, by making the decision to get vaccinated.”