The flu season has barely begun, with the peak not expected for at least 2 months, but there’s already an uptick in reported cases—and multiple deaths—around the country. Just last week, Nevada reported three fatalities and North Carolina reported its first of the 2016–2017 season. The grim news is an opportunity to stress to patients the importance of getting their annual flu shot early, as suggested by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Ask every patient who enters your urgent care center whether or not they’ve had a flu shot this year. If not, ensure they’re aware of the following:
- The CDC recommends flu shots for every person 6 months of age and older.
- Immunization against influenza is most critical in children between 6-months- and 5-years-old, and people over 65-years-old.
- Patients of any age with chronic illnesses like diabetes or various lung conditions are at increased risk for flu-related complications, including death.
- Flu or flu-related complications kill roughly 125,000 people in the United States every year.
- In a typical year, flu vaccine has an effectiveness rate of 50% (vs 0% for people who do not get a flu shot).
Patients can further decrease their risk for contracting flu by practicing basic hygiene, such as regular handwashing with warm water and soap, getting adequate rest, and staying away from people who have symptoms of flu.