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Have we let our guard down about the flu?

Posted Jan 17 2013 10:51am

Flu Shots, Flu VirusThis year, as one of the worst flu seasons in a decade sweeps across the country, everyone is being reminded that the flu is unpredictable. Major cities have declared public health emergencies, infection rates are soaring and so far this season, sadly 20 children with confirmed flu tests have died.

A report released Jan. 15, from the Trust for America’s Health (TFAH) noted that because the flu never really ramped up in the last two years, getting a flu vaccination stopped being a priority for many people across the nation. 

“The flu is an annual threat. Some years, like this one, the threat is more severe than others. The problem is we let our guard down during mild seasons and then we aren’t ready when a harder season hits,” said Jeffrey Levi, PhD, executive director of TFAH. “We need to maintain a steady defense and make annual flu vaccinations – and the manufacture of sufficient supply -- a much higher priority every year.”

TFAH found fewer than half of Americans ages six months and older were vaccinated against the flu in the last two flu season (2010-11 and 2011-12). Although flu vaccination levels do vary widely by state, with South Dakota, Massachusetts, Hawaii, Rhode Island, and Iowa as the top-ranking states for flu vaccine coverage. The five states that ranked the lowest were Florida, Montana, Alaska, Idaho, and Nevada.

While many of us dismiss seasonal influenza as “only a bad cold,” it is actually a highly contagious viral infection with the potential to unleash a major threat to communities and businesses. The economic cost and loss of life can be diminished if people remember that the flu is potentially very dangerous.

Employers can help save themselves money and lost working hours by taking preventative measures. Providing onsite flu shot clinics or flu shot voucher programs ensures that your employees have access to one of the best preventative measures to fight the flu. 

Milder flu seasons do tend to drop influenza from the public eye but every year it's important to take the flu threat seriously. Getting the flu vaccination protects you, your family and those you come in contact with each day.

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