As this year’s influenza season really gets going, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has released a report with some data that should make you sit up and take notice. In fact, it should spur you to action. In a year when flu killed at least 79,000, less than 40% of adults in the United States received the influenza vaccination. The highest death toll in decades coincided with the lowest immunization rate in 7 years. This is not a coincidence. As you know, the flu shot is by far the most important component of flu prevention. Patients have been told this over and over, too, yet only 37% of adults took action last year. This is information that could persuade some patients to say yes when you offer to give them a flu shot. Bear in mind, as well, that the 79,000 mortality number is likely low, as “flu” is a key contributing factor to many deaths attributed to respiratory failure, heart attack, and other causes. And then there are the 49 million people who were diagnosed with flu, 960,000 of whom were hospitalized as a result. The CDC recommends sharing these figures with patients who are reluctant to get a flu shot. Fight unfounded fear of vaccines with scientific fact about flu’s consequences. On another note, if you offer occupational medicine services, make sure your clients know that flu cost American businesses $21 billion in lost productivity last year, according to an estimate from Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc. based on the fact that there were 17 million sick days attributed to flu.
Last Year’s High Death Toll from Flu Partially Explained—and the Data Should Frustrate You