he CDC is currently reporting that the majority of US states have reached the level of widespread flu activity. In New York State (NYS), healthcare and residential facility&emdash;as well as agency personnel are required to get vaccinated against the flu or to “wear a surgical or procedure mask while in areas where patients or residents are typically present.” Requirements and guidelines vary by state. I got my flu shot as soon as it was available, back in October. By December 28, 2016, the flu was “prevalent” and the NYS regulation went into effect for the 2016-2017 flu season. This will likely remain in effect until mid to late spring.
For people with diabetes (PWD), the American Diabetes Association Standards of Medical Care in Diabetes 2017 Recommendations state, “annual vaccination against influenza is recommended for all persons with diabetes >6 months of age.” There are several reasons a person may not get immunized against the flu including medical, religious and philosophical reasons. However, for those who do want to get immunized, it is quite easy and accessible to do so, with opportunities at medical offices, community pharmacies, and clinics. AADE and CDC created a wonderful infographic titled “What do adults 65 and older with diabetes need to know about the flu?" as part of the Flu + You campaign.
As healthcare providers, we should take measures to prevent getting and spreading the flu and encourage PWD and those around them to do the same
Prevention of the flu is extremely important, especially for more vulnerable populations like children and older adults. Deaths from the flu have already been reported for this season, and local health care facilities have been negatively impacted by the flu and other winter illnesses. Some units are on shutdown due to flu cases, and some medical offices are struggling to manage daily operations/patient care with many employees out sick.
The CDC suggests three major steps to preventing the flu:
- Take time to get a flu vaccine.
- Take everyday preventive actions to stop the spread of germs (i.e., avoid contact with the sick, wash hands frequently, cover mouth and nose with a tissue when sneezing or coughing, clean and disinfect surfaces and objects that may be contaminated with germs).
- Take flu antiviral drugs if your doctor prescribes them.
As healthcare providers, we should take measures to prevent getting and spreading the flu and encourage PWD and those around them to do the same. Education about immunization can be beneficial to PWD with whom we work. It is important to respect individual decisions about immunization if a person does not want to get a flu shot, but the steps for preventing illness apply to all of us. Having hand sanitizer, masks, tissues and trash receptecles easliy accessible can aid in the prevention of illness.
Let’s work to decrease spread of the flu in our communities.
About the Author
Karen Kemmis is a physical therapist and certified diabetes educator, and also holds certifications in Pilates for rehabilitation and exercise for aging adults. She is based out of SUNY Upstate Medical University in Syracuse, NY and splits her time between a Joslin Diabetes Center affiliate, an outpatient rehabilitation department, and a PT program where she is an adjunct professor.