Posts Tagged ‘flu’

2014-2015 Influenza Vaccine Recommendation

March 20th, 2014

Every year the World Health Organization holds a meeting with worldwide experts to make recommendations for the next season’s Northern Hemisphere flu vaccine. It seems strange to plan for next season when we’re still in the midst of the current flu season, but the vaccine-making process still takes about 6 months. Influenza season generally ramps up around September or October, so starting the process now ensures that there’ll be a good supply of vaccine for folks to get protected from flu before the next season hits. 

At last week’s meeting in Geneva, the WHO panel recommended that the components in next season’s vaccine remain the same as this year’s. Even though the vaccine components will stay the same, it’s still important to get vaccinated every year. Immunity wanes over time, so the best way to protect yourself is to get vaccinated every year.

 

Influenza Still Widespread in AZ

February 21st, 2014

A report out by the CDC this week found that people between 18 and 64 years old make up 61% of all flu-related hospitalizations so far this season in the US.   In normal years only about 35% of flu hospitalizations are from this age group. H1N1 (the flu strain we saw circulating in the 2009 flu pandemic) is still the main culprit.  H1N1 is included in this year’s vaccine, so people who got vaccinated will be protected from the flu in most cases.  People who’ve been vaccinated with the flu shot this year are 61% less likely to have to go to the doctor according to today’s report. 

Influenza is still widespread In Arizona.  If you haven’t been vaccinated yet, you may need to call around to find whether a healthcare provider or pharmacy near you still has vaccine in stock. Remember to get your shot early next season so you’re protected for the entire flu season. Visit stopthespreadaz.org to find a shot.

 

Arizona “Mission of Mercy” Starts Tomorrow

December 12th, 2013

Seems like anytime you hear a 100+ year old person being interviewed about the secret to long life they say “take care of your teeth and feet and drink cod liver oil”.  For good reason.  Good oral health is critical to a person’s overall health. Tooth decay and gum disease are linked with heart disease, stroke and diabetes, and premature births. Many people in our community can’t afford dental care, so they suffer from poor oral health that affects their ability to speak, smile, smell, taste, touch and eat. That’s why the Arizona Dental Mission of Mercy is such an important event for Arizona.  

The event provides free dental services to people in need. Last year about 2,000 people were able to get services. This year’s Mission of Mercy takes place December 13 and 14 at the Arizona Fairgrounds. There’ll be about 100 portable dental units and 1,500 volunteers that will provide more than $1M in free care to children and adults. 

We’re supporting the event through Title V funds and several of our staff volunteered to provide health information about our programs and services to the patients. Thanks to Sheila Sjolander, Wayne Tormala, Jennifer Botsford, Tiana Galindo, Mary Luc, Cristina Ochoa, Margaret Lindsay, Anita Betancourt, Kimberly O’Neill, Mohammed Khan, Sharon Jaycox, Karen Sell, America Coles, Mary Ellen Cunningham, Belen Herner, Matthew Roach, Brandy McMahon, Blanca Caballero, Michael Abbott, Julia Wacloff, and Chris Minnick for volunteering for the event. 

Also, thanks to Maricopa County Public Health for providing flu vaccinations to participants- and a huge thanks to Kevin Earle, the Executive Director of the Arizona Dental Association for his leadership in setting up this year’s Mission.

Flu Near You

December 5th, 2013

Flu Near You is a free tool that’s been made to help in the fight against flu. The way it works is that people like you and I anonymously report each week on whether we had symptoms or flu shots. The information is used to place a dot on a map of the community so flu-like activity to be tracked for the area. 

It’s really easy and anyone 13 years and older can register on their computer or mobile device. This site gives a lot of good stuff to look at including maps of flu activity in your area, places where you can get your flu shot, links to local public health sites, and Google Flu Trends graphs. Sign up today to be a flu fighter, and remember with flu season around the corner it’s a great time to go out and get vaccinated.

Influenza Vaccine Season Blows In

September 30th, 2013

It’s almost that time of year… flu season.  Flu shots have arrived and are already in many pharmacies and doctor’s offices, meaning you can already get vaccinated before the flu hits this season.  There’s a wide array of influenza vaccine choices these days – more than ever.  

The nasal spray is approved for healthy, non-pregnant people between the ages of 2 and 49 years old. The shot is approved for most people 6 months and older. There’s also a special high-dose shot for folks 65+ that gives better protection by improving immune response.  This year there are even 2 types of flu vaccines aren’t grown in chicken eggs- allowing even people with egg allergies to be vaccinated this year. 

In past years, flu vaccines have always provided protection against 3 flu strains, 2 influenza A strains and one influenza B strain.  For the first time this year, 4 of the licensed flu vaccines will protect against 4 different flu strains-  two “A” strains and 2 “B” strains.  This year’s (three-strain) vaccines will contain the pandemic and H3N2 strains as well as a brand-new B strain. 

The flu season in the Southern Hemisphere peaked in mid-July and is winding down. Central America, the Caribbean, South America and South Africa and Australia and New Zealand have all been seeing influenza strains that are included in this year’s US vaccines- meaning that this year’s vaccines will likely be a good match for what starts going around when flu season gets going. 

The flu spreads from person to person through droplets made when people sick with flu cough, sneeze or talk. It can give you a fever, cough, sore throat, muscle aches, and make you really tired among other things. That’s why it’s so important to get vaccinated every year to protect yourself and those around you from this bad bug.

CDC Sortable Stats

September 2nd, 2013

There’s a new CDC Sortable Stats web application that went live a couple of weeks ago that provides an interactive tool to analyze behavioral risk factors and health indicators compiled from various published CDC and federal sources.  You can search by state for things like death rates (e.g.  infant mortality, heart disease, motor vehicle death rates, etc.); health burden (e.g. obesity, Hepatitis B & C, diabetes, teen birth rate, etc.); risk factors (e.g. smoking, physical activity, seat belt use, etc.); and preventive services (colorectal cancer screening, flu vaccine, and child vaccination coverage).

A good place to start are the individual fact sheets for individual states or territories. Here’s a link to the Arizona report.

Our Newest Decision-making Tool

June 24th, 2013

The core of our decision-making as an agency relies on evidence.  Evidence can be scientific like surveillance or research or it can be administrative or financial.  Whichever way you slice it- the key is to get good reliable information so that our teams can make effective decisions as we execute our mission.  

One of the tools that the statewide public health system relies upon is called the Behavioral Risk Factor Survey.  It’s conducted throughout the year in AZ and examines the self-reported habits of thousands of people from across the state. The report contains key data on lifestyle risk factors contributing to the leading causes of death and chronic diseases- and measures the public health system’s progress on smoking, overweight, high blood pressure, exercise, flu/pneumonia vaccination, cholesterol, seat belt use, fruit/vegetable consumption and other risk factors. 

These data give us some of the tools we need to set priorities and craft intervention strategies. Judy Bass was the point person for this year’s report.   Well done Judy!

 

ADHS Lab Set to Test for H7N9 Influenza

April 26th, 2013

China is continuing to report more and more cases of the new H7N9 Influenza virus.  So far they’ve confirmed 108 cases with a death rate of about 20% (21 deaths)   All the cases appear to have jumped from birds to humans- meaning that there’s no human-to-human transmission (which is good).  One concern is that if a person becomes infected with a seasonal influenza strain and the new H7N9 strain at the same time the viruses could exchange RNA and create a new strain that could be communicable humans to human (which would be bad).

Our Arizona State Laboratory ordered the H7N9 influenza test kits from the CDC this week- and we’ll receive them this morning.  Our team will run the first H7N9 test on a sample that came in Thursday evening from a sick AZ resident with a travel history to the parts of China that have been reporting H7N9 influenza.  It’s a very low suspect case.

Next Season’s Influenza Vaccine

March 5th, 2013

Just as our influenza season winds down (and it is), it’s time to plan for the next one.  Every February the World Health Organization convenes a panel of experts to look at the most current data on the circulating flu strains from around the world and makes recommendations for the next season’s Northern Hemisphere flu vaccine.  At this week’s meeting in Geneva, the group recommended changing a B component of the vaccine, but sticking with the A/H3N2 and A/H1N1 components for next year. 

It may seem too early to be thinking about next year’s flu vaccine, but planning in February allows time for vaccine companies to grow the viruses and process the vaccine. The vaccine-making process still takes about 6 months… so it’s important to start as early as possible to ensure that vaccine is available for the start of the next flu season. Getting vaccinated against the flu every year is important, especially because the vaccine strains can change from year to year, as will happen for the 2013-2014 season.

Strategic National Stockpile Readiness

February 27th, 2013

The CDC’s “Strategic National Stockpile” is a large quantity of medicine and medical supplies that are available to states in case there’s a public health emergency (flu outbreak, asteroid, etc.) severe enough to cause local health supplies to run out.  Once federal and local authorities agree that the stockpile is needed, meds and supplies are delivered to any state in time for them to be effective. Each state is responsible for receiving and distributing the stockpile assets to local communities fast. 

Our Public Health Emergency Preparedness shop is responsible for the overall planning and execution in AZ.  The Plan (which isn’t posted on-line for security reasons) provides a step by step approach to accessing and distributing pharmaceuticals, vaccines and other medical equipment and products stored by the Feds.  Our Plan is evaluated yearly by the CDC.  The review covers every aspect of our plan… including how we communicate with the public, work with our healthcare and Agency partners as well as how we plan to work with vulnerable populations should SNS assets be needed. 

This year we got a score of 93% from the CDC…  and our partner counties (Pinal and Maricopa) received similar scores- demonstrating that the plans work together effectively to serve the public when they need to be activated.  We’ll be testing these plans during a full-scale exercise this week.  Congratulations to our preparedness rock-stars Teresa Ehnert, Marcus Castle, Stacey Cain and the whole emergency preparedness team! 

By the way…  we received and executed stockpile assets (antiviral medications and other healthcare supplies) during the 2009 H1N1 Influenza pandemic.  Our turnaround time from the minute we received the first shipment until everything was at its local destination was less than 36 hours- an impressive testament to our ability to plan and execute during a public health emergency.