Posts Tagged ‘influenza’

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 to find a shot.


Influenza is Widespread in Arizona

January 24th, 2014

Influenza has been steadily spreading in Arizona over the last few weeks and this week we hit the Widespread Influenza threshold.  In fact, the number of cases increased by 50% this week- and several Arizona emergency departments are backed up with substantial wait times.  CDC’s report is due to come out Friday… but I’d guess that most states will also report widespread activity.  H1N1, the flu strain that caused the 2009 pandemic, is the most common strain out there right now. 

Luckily, this year’s flu vaccine includes H1N1, so people who’ve been vaccinated will be protected. If you haven’t gotten your shot yet, you still can – just remember it takes about 2 weeks for the shot to fully protect you.  Some other things to remember are to stay home when you’re sick so you don’t infect other people, wash your hands often, and cover your nose and mouth when you cough and sneeze. Also, if you’re not having severe symptoms like a really hard time breathing or chest pain, then call your doctor instead of heading straight to the ER. 

On the respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) front… we’ve had 495 cases reported so far this year. That’s about a 70% decrease from the number of cases we saw this time last year. Like every year, most of our cases are in kids under the age of 5, so it’s really important to keep your little ones healthy by washing their hands often, keeping them away from other sick kids, and keeping them at home when they’re ill.

AZ Disease Detective Software Overhaul

January 14th, 2014

Our statewide disease detectives (whose job it is to slow the spread of communicable diseases) need real-time electronic surveillance in order to get the job done.  Our I.T. folks and the people in Public Health Preparedness have been working on an upgraded system to help them for the last several months- and our new Medical Electronic Disease Surveillance Intelligence System (MEDSIS) went online last  week.  

MEDSIS allows all 15 county and 4 tribal health departments to monitor and manage infectious diseases.  Some hospitals in the state are tapping into the system as well.  This newest edition has a Spanish version so our counterparts in Sonora can enter data and we can track diseases that may pop up on both sides of the border – like influenza, Valley Fever and TB. 

The bottom line is we can now track these diseases more quickly and more accurately and we have something new in the toolbox to quickly discover an outbreak.  Many thanks to all the staff who worked so diligently on this project- including Nita Surathu, Javed Mukarram, Michael Conklin, Shandy Odell, Lloyd Kalicki and Victor Sanchez, Arup Sinha, Joe Enos, Noel Ramirez, Robert Howard, and Srinivasa Venkatesan.

Sochi Public Health Tips

January 13th, 2014

I know that some of you out there are going to attend  the Winter Olympics – so I put together the blog post below over the weekend for folks that might be going.  Here goes in case you’re interested: Let’s start with the good news first- then the health tips… 

Sochi Games to be Smoke Free-

Russians are 4th in the world in cigarette consumption at about 2,800 cigarettes/person/year (the U.S. is 34th at about 1,000 cigarettes/person/year)… so it’s great that the Russian Federation has made the commitment to make the games smoke-free.  BTW: here’s a country by country listing of cigarette consumption per capita

Smoking will be prohibited in all the Olympic and Paralympic venues, including all bars and restaurants in the  Olympic park. No tobacco will be sold in any of the venues and the anti-smoking policy will be broadcast during all events on the scoreboards.   

Get Vaccinated-

Make sure you’re up to date up-to-date on all your routine vaccines- especially this year’s influenza vaccine.  Many adults haven’t had their Hepatitis A and B vaccine- both of which will come in handy- especially the Hep A vaccine.   There’ll be folks from all over the world there, bringing all sorts of viruses with them in a cold climate- so make a sure you don’t leave any protective vaccines on the table.  

Measles is still fairly common in that part of the world, so everyone under 55 years old should make sure they’re fully vaccinated for the measles.  People over 55 years old probably had the measles as a kid, so they’re at low risk.  More information on recommended vaccines is on CDC’s Russia destination page.   Also, DTaP or TDaP (depending on your age) is a good idea since diphtheria is still circulating in the region. 

Pack Smart-

Be sure to pack a travel health kit, including all your medications.  Pack them in your carry-on luggage and take extra in case of travel delays.  Be sure to pack plenty of warm clothes and sensible shoes with traction so you avoid falls.  The climate in Sochi is about like Prescott in February… but the competitions held uphill on snow and ice and any competition at night will be downright cold.  The right waterproof and windproof clothing will help too because it can rain there in February. 

Stay Hydrated-

It’s a lot easier than you think to get dehydrated in cold weather because cold air holds so little moisture.  Make sure you drink at least a couple of liters of water every day- more is better.   From what I’ve read, the water that leaves the Sochi treatment plant is OK to drink- but some of the underground pipes pre-date the revolution and the water can get contaminated on the way to the tap- so it’s best to seek bottled water or bring your own micro-filter. 

Traffic & Crowds-

Traffic will probably be heavy- so be careful when you’re a pedestrian.  Russian drivers don’t necessarily yield to pedestrians- and cars almost always have the right-of-way there.  Keep your thinking cap on while you’re walking around- not just looking out for cars but watching the ground for ice and stuff.  You don’t want to end up in a Russian hospital instead of enjoying the games!

Spectator crowds are sometimes tricky. Choose a place to meet if you get separated from your group (you probably won’t have your cell service to find each other), and pay attention to where emergency exits are when indoors at large events.  Above all- stay clear headed and don’t over-indulge on alcohol when in crowds or where the footing is slippery. 

Check Your Health Insurance-

Russia requires you to show proof that you have health insurance that’s valid in the Russian Federation in order to get a visa ($50).  Many domestic insurance plans won’t cover you if you need medical care overseas, so check with your insurance provider to find out the extent of your coverage outside the US.  You might want to buy supplemental travel health insurance that will cover any unexpected emergencies while you’re in Russia. 

Safety and Security-For more information about safety and security travel you can check out the State Department’s guidance for travel to the Sochi 2014 Olympic Games.

Influenza Season Officially Arrives

January 3rd, 2014

Flu season is here!  Parts of the country (mostly in the south) have had more intense flu activity in the last few weeks, and 25 states reported widespread flu activity for the week ending December 28th.   Meanwhile, in Arizona we are seeing an increase in the number of lab-confirmed flu cases reported to ADHS- but 50% fewer cases than we saw last year at this time.  Not only are we seeing rising numbers of flu, CDC has also received reports of severe respiratory illness among young and middle-aged adults, which we also saw during the H1N1 pandemic. 

In Arizona, as in the rest of the U.S., three different strains are circulating including the same virus that caused the 2009 pandemic.  The H1N1 virus is part of this year’s seasonal influenza vaccine.  Don’t forget — it’s not too late to get your flu vaccination if you haven’t already! 

Like flu, respiratory syncytial virus (or RSV), is off to a slower start this year compared to last year. We’ve had 182 lab-confirmed cases reported so far (as of December 28th), compared to 601 cases at this same time last year. As we see every year, RSV is more common in kids 4 and younger this year, with 84% of our cases in this age group. Check out the weekly surveillance reports for  Arizona and for the U.S. online.

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.

H7N9 Influenza Test Negative

April 26th, 2013

Just as we expected, the sample that we tested for H7N9 influenza today was negative.  Thanks to our Lab team for staying a little late this evening to run the test.  Even though it was very likely to be negative from the beginning- it’s still important to follow up on every lead.  After all, vigilance on the part of the international public health system is a cornerstone of public health readiness.
Have a healthy and safe weekend…