Because this year’s flu vaccine is not as effective against a current, mutated strain of the influenza virus, individuals should be taking extra precautions this year.
This year’s flu is unpredictable. Early in December, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) sent an advisory to doctors noting that more than half of the 85 influenza virus samples it had analyzed were different than the virus strains included in this year’s vaccine, signaling that there has been a mutation, or a drift, of the strain.
This season’s most commonly reported strain of the virus is influenza A (H3N2). In the past, influenza A has been associated with higher rates of hospitalization and death than other strains, especially for people at high risk for complications, such as the very young, the elderly and those with chronic health conditions.
Here are some things you can do:
- Make sure you are vaccinated. During the 2012-13 flu season, 12,337 people were hospitalized with flu-related illness and 149 children died, according to CDC surveillance data. Ninety percent of those children were unvaccinated. While the flu vaccine is not as protective against a mutated strain, it can still decrease the severity of illness caused by such a strain.
- Become educated on how influenza is spread. If you’re sick, stay home. Be sure to learn about preventive measures, like healthy eating, plenty of sleep, regular washing of hands, covering the mouth when coughing or sneezing, and drinking lots of fluids.
- Check with your employer to ensure you have work alternatives in place, like working from home, if that is a possibility for your position.
- When you start feeling symptoms, be sure to take antiviral medications. Such medications can make the flu milder and shorter.
- If you’re sick, stay home or work from home. Don’t give the flu a chance to spread.
- Set an example. If you’re a manager, don’t come to work sick. This tells the people you work with they should come in no matter how they feel.
The above information is summarized and modified from an article from SHRM (Society for HR Management), written by Dana Wilkie.