Influenza: Get Ready Now for the Upcoming Flu Season

The flu virus is common and unpredictable. It can cause serious complications – even in healthy children. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports 180 influenza-related pediatric deaths for 2017-2018. Certain people are more at risk for serious flu-related complications. These include children younger than 5 years, especially those younger than 2 years. Children of any age with certain long-term health problems have higher risk of serious illness from influenza. These health problems include asthma or other lung disorders, heart disease, or a neurologic or neurodevelopmental disorder.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) strongly recommends annual influenza immunization for everyone age 6 months and older. Infants less than 6 months of age are too young to receive influenza vaccine. It is especially important for everyone who comes in contact with infants to get flu vaccine. This will help protect babies from exposure to the virus. The vaccine helps reduce serious illness and death that occur every year from influenza. For the 2018-19 flu season, the AAP recommends that children should get the injectable, not the nasal mist form of flu vaccine. The mist form should be used if is the only way a flu vaccine can be given. The CDC recommends that to get as many people vaccinated, any approved form of the vaccine, including flu mist can be used.
Don’t think you are immune because you have never had the flu. The first time you get the infection can make you sick for months or kill you. Influenza infections are most common between October and April. Many people say they have had the “flu” when they had an uncomfortable respiratory illness. However, short, mild-to-moderate illnesses are most often caused by other seasonal viruses. Usually, influenza causes a severe and long-lasting illness.

Promote full participation in this year's immunization effort for children and staff in your early care and education program:
• Identify a Flu Vaccine Champion in your program. This staff member can promote the importance of vaccination for children, staff and family members. Documenting children and staff that are vaccinated can be important in the event of an outbreak. Consider providing incentives such as a $5 gift card for staff who get flu vaccine.
• Offer help if needed to find a convenient location to get the vaccine. Use the Flu Vaccine Finder.

•Use the posters, information sheets and other tools on the website of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. See the specific resources for schools and child care.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        9/2018