Preparing for the Flu Season: What Healthcare Professionals Need to Know

Flu season is upon us once again and clinicians are busy preparing. Healthcare professionals play a vital role in protecting themselves and their patients from the flu every year. Keep reading to learn more about the predictions for the 2022-2023 flu season and how to prepare.

Influenza, or the flu, is a highly contagious respiratory illness caused by a virus. The flu can cause severe illness and even death, particularly in young children, the elderly, and people with certain chronic health conditions. Symptoms include fever, chills, body aches, fatigue, and more.

Each year, an average of 200,000 people in the United States are hospitalized and 36,000 people die from the flu. The last few years have been unique due to influences of the COVID-19 pandemic, but this flu season has the potential to be a more harmful one.

What You Need to Know About Flu Season 2022-2023

Early Start to the Flu Season

This year’s flu season is off to an early start, with cases reported in all 50 states, particularly widespread in the South and Midwest. While it’s not unusual for flu activity to begin increasing in October, this is the earliest start to the season in the last 15 years.

Flu season typically runs from October to May, with the peak occurring between December and February. To keep up with how flu activity is changing throughout the season, be sure to check the CDC’s FluView report.

Reduced Flu Immunity

And while the season is still in its early stages, experts are already predicting that it will be a particularly severe one that could bring “a robust return of the flu”. Since more people have been quarantining and taking more precautions due to COVID-19, relaxed guidelines and greater exposure this year could leave more people with reduced flu protection.

The CDC is especially worried about a general decline in flu vaccine coverage during the pandemic, especially in high-risk groups like children and pregnant people. There is reduced population immunity as well with younger children that may not have had flu exposure or vaccination.

COVID-19 Considerations

It’s important to consider the impact of COVID-19 on this year’s flu season. Although the pandemic reduced influenza activity over the last couple of flu seasons, there is a possibility that the two diseases could co-circulate more this year, leading to an increase in illnesses and hospitalizations.

Last year’s flu season also started later. There was an increase in November 2021 that declined in January 2022 and the second wave started in March 2022 and remained elevated through mid-June. The CDC noted increased hospitalizations in the second wave as well. It’s important to prepare for an earlier start this year, but also the possibility of waves throughout the flu season and elevated cases into the later spring.

Flu Vaccination

Fortunately, there are things we can do to reduce our risk of getting the flu and passing it on. Getting a flu shot is the best way to protect yourself and your patients from illness. Flu vaccines are safe, effective, and the best way to protect yourself and your loved ones from the flu every year.

If you haven’t gotten a flu shot yet, it’s not too late. Vaccination is recommended by the CDC for everyone over 6 months of age, especially important for people at high risk of serious flu complications. This includes people 65 years and older, people with certain chronic medical conditions, and pregnant women. It’s advised that everyone get vaccinated every year, ideally by the end of October.

Stay Safe This Flu Season

As we head into the colder months of the flu season, it is important for healthcare professionals to stay healthy and be prepared. There are several steps that can be taken to prevent the spread of the flu and to reduce the severity of illness. Being aware of the trends in flu activity is also important to prevention. By taking these steps, we can help to protect ourselves, our patients, and the healthcare system from influenza this season.

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