Thursday, September 06, 2018

#NatlPrep: Giving Your Preparedness Plan A Shot In The Arm

Note: September is National Preparedness Month . Follow this year’s campaign on Twitter by searching for the #NatlPrep hash tag.
This month, I’ll be rerunning some edited and updated older preparedness essays, along with some new ones.


Although I get a flu shot by mid-to-late September every year, last year - on September 4th - with Hurricane Irma aimed in my direction, I decided to get my shot a bit early (see #NatlPrep: A Hurricane Prep You Might Not Have Considered).
As it turned out, it was a good decision, because 3 days later Irma hit, and took down the power across much of Florida for several days (for some, a couple of weeks)
With no power, there was no refrigeration, and grocery stores across the state  were throwing away tons of spoiled meat, milk, and produce. Local pharmacies lost their `cold chain' for their vaccines as well, and were forced to dump thousands of doses.

Although supplies were restored within a few weeks, this is a reminder that you can't always depend upon what you need or want always being available tomorrow.  Sometimes . . . things happen. 
This year, in addition to getting my annual flu shot, I'm (over) due for a tetanus booster, and so I plan to get that done by the end of the month.  Sooner, if I find myself in the path of another storm. 
Just like having a first aid kit, and a supply of any Rx meds you might be taking, staying current on vaccines is an important part of prepping.  The last thing you want to have to deal with during a crisis is coming down with the flu.

While the flu vaccine isn't an ironclad guarantee of staying healthy, most years it provides moderately good protection.  And for those who are vaccinated - but still get the flu - they are less likely to have a severe bout.

This from the CDC:
Flu Vaccine Reduces Serious Flu Outcomes

Flu vaccination has been shown to reduce flu illnesses and more serious flu outcomes that can result in hospitalization or even death in older people. For example, a 2017 study showed that flu vaccination reduced deaths, intensive care unit (ICU) admissions, ICU length of stay, and overall duration of hospitalization among hospitalized flu patients; with the greatest benefits being observed among people 65 years of age and older.
And for those of us of a certain age, getting the flu shot may also provide additional protection against heart attacks as well (see 2015's  UNSW: Flu Vaccine Provides Significant Protection Against Heart Attack).  Other, more recent studies with similar findings include:
CID Journal: Flu Vaccine Reduces Severe Outcomes in Hospitalized Patients

Int. Med. J.: Triggering Of Acute M.I. By Respiratory Infection
I've participated in the Flu Near You surveillance program - a partnership between HealthMap (,  Boston Children’s Hospital, and the Skoll Global Threats Fund - every week since 2011 (see The `Flu Near You’ Survey), and because of that I know I haven't had a respiratory illness in 7 years. 
While I'm sure my nearly obsessive use of hand sanitizer when out in public, my avoidance of crowds during the winter, and no small amount of good luck have probably been big contributors to that remarkable run . . . I've also not missed a flu vaccine in over a decade.
As I'm soon to join that 65+ demographic, I feel getting that yearly flu shot (and a pneumonia vaccine once you are 65) becomes even more important. While I recognize that there are a lot of people who have reservations about the flu shot, I can only say that my experience has been positive.

This week the CDC published some advice on the recently introduced flu shot options, including the High Dose Flu Vaccine  and the Adjuvanted Flu Vaccine, specifically designed for the 65-and-over crowd.  Follow the link to read it in its entirety.

People 65 Years and Older & Influenza
It has been recognized for many years that people 65 years and older are at greater risk of serious complications from the flu compared with young, healthy adults because human immune defenses become weaker with age. While flu seasons can vary in severity, during most seasons, people 65 years and older bear the greatest burden of severe flu disease. In recent years, for example, it’s estimated that between about 70 percent and 85 percent of seasonal flu-related deaths have occurred in people 65 years and older and between 54 percent and 70 percent of seasonal flu-related hospitalizations have occurred among people in that age group. So influenza is often quite serious for people 65 and older.

A Flu Vaccine is the Best Protection Against Flu

The best way to protect against flu and its potentially serious complications is with a CDC recommends that everyone 6 months of age and older get a seasonal flu vaccine each year by the end of October. However, as long as flu viruses are circulating, vaccination should continue throughout flu season, even in January or later.

Flu vaccination is especially important for people 65 years and older because they are at high risk of developing serious complications from flu. Flu vaccines are updated each season as needed to keep up with changing viruses. Also, immunity wanes over a year so annual vaccination is needed to ensure the best possible protection against influenza. A flu vaccine protects against the flu viruses that research indicates will be most common during the upcoming season. (See Vaccine Virus Selection for this season’s exact vaccine composition.) The 2018-2019 flu vaccine has been updated from last season’s vaccine to better match circulating viruses. Immunity from vaccination sets in after about two weeks.

(Continue . . . .)

While the current vaccine is far from perfect, and can’t promise 100% protection, it – along with practicing good flu hygiene (washing hands, covering coughs, & staying home if sick) – remains your best strategy for avoiding the flu and staying healthy this winter.

And if you aren't already a weekly contributor to the Flu Near You surveillance program, I'd ask that you consider joining. It only takes a minute of your time once a week, and it can help provide a valuable early-warning for when, and where, flu will arrive this winter.