The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is enlisting the aid of employers and business groups to help raise awareness of the health risks of influenza and how to avoid and minimize these risks.
In late 2007, CDC launched its annual national influenza awareness campaign. As part of the campaign, CDC officials are recommending that people get flu vaccinations, especially those groups with higher risks for health complications. Those groups are:
• People of any age with chronic medical conditions.
• People who live with or care for individuals in the at-risk groups.
• People who live in nursing homes and other long-term-care facilities.
• People age 50 or older.
• Health care providers.
• Family members, caregivers and other people in contact with infants 6 months and younger.
• Children ages 6 months to 5 years.
• Pregnant women.
The good news for the 2007-08 flu season is that influenza vaccine supplies appear to be more widely available than ever before, said Dr. Jeanne Santoli, deputy director of the CDC’s Immunization Services Division. Adequate supplies of vaccine enable those who should be receiving an annual flu vaccination to get vaccinated, she said.
In addition, the agency encourages employers and health care providers to educate employees and patients about the benefits of receiving a flu vaccination. For employers, the CDC provides information and resources, such as fact sheets, posters and frequently asked questions, that companies can share with their workers. Employers that want to know more can contact the CDC or one of its partner organizations conducting influenza awareness campaigns.
The American Lung Association (ALA), a CDC partner, began its “Faces of Influenza” campaign in mid-November. The campaign’s goal is to put a “face” on influenza and to stress the importance of annual influenza immunization throughout the fall and winter months. According to ALA data, more than 225,000 people are hospitalized because of influenza and its complications every year in the United States, and approximately 36,000 die. This makes influenza—when combined with pneumonia—the eighth leading cause of death in the United States. To combat those influenza rates, the ALA provides resources for health care providers and employers.
Other groups, such as the National Association of Child Care Professionals and Families Fighting Flu, have joined to increase influenza vaccination rates among families. The “Fighting Flu in Child Care Settings: Building Blocks to Increase Influenza Awareness” campaign is designed to give child care providers the tools they need to help educate parents about the importance of annual influenza vaccinations for children.
“Vaccinating children against the flu is the single best way to protect them and their families from the virus,” said Richard Kanowitz, president of Families Fighting Flu. Many parents underestimate the seriousness of the flu, so educating parents about the importance of annual flu vaccination will safeguard families, schools, workplaces and communities from the serious health risks of influenza, he said.
Bill Leonard is senior writer for SHRM Online.
Seasonal Flu Information for Workplaces & Employees, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention