2015-2016 Influenza Season
Flu activity is increasing in the United States, as would be expected at this time of year. There have even been 4 deaths in children from influenza so far this year. The single best way to protect against influenza and reduce the risk of becoming sick from it is to get vaccinated now. This critically important approach puts the health and safety of every person in the child care setting first. Influenza vaccine is recommended for everyone 6 months of age and older, including child care staff.
Misconceptions about the Flu Vaccine
A number of fears about the flu vaccine have grown over the years, causing some adults to avoid getting it. These fears range from questions about vaccine safety to concerns about its overall effectiveness. Some adults think that you can get the flu from getting the flu vaccine. The flu vaccine cannot cause influenza; however, it can cause mild side effects in some people (body aches, injection site soreness, low grade fever). Additionally, it's possible for adults to get influenza, or another virus that has similar symptoms, just after receiving the flu vaccine. The flu vaccine takes 2 weeks to begin to provide good protection. That's why it is wrong thinking by some adults to wait to get vaccinated until right before the flu hits their community. The sooner you get vaccinated, the better. See the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) fact sheet "No More Excuses: You Need a Flu Vaccine" for more information.
Prevent the Spread of Germs
With flu activity now increasing, the challenge is to keep germs from spreading around. Staff members and children should be taught to cover their mouths and noses with a tissue when they
cough or sneeze (and put the tissue in the trash right away), or they should be encouraged to cough into the elbow or shoulder (ie, not into their hands). After coughing or sneezing, everyone should be encouraged to
wash their hands with an alcohol-based hand sanitizer or soap and water. Consider displaying
educational materials in Head Start or early education and child care programs to encourage proper hand hygiene and cough/sneeze etiquette. "The Flu: A Guide for Parents", "Everyday Preventive Actions that can Help Fight Germs, Like Flu", and "Teaching Children About the Flu" are just a few of the free materials that are available on the
CDC Print Materials Web page.
Review Immunization Documentation
Child care facilities should require that all parents/guardians of children enrolled in child care provide written documentation of receipt of immunizations appropriate for each child's age. Programs also can review
immunization documentation records to confirm that all children have been vaccinated this season for influenza. Infants too young to receive the flu vaccine before the start of influenza season should be vaccinated as soon as they reach 6 months of age. Set up a reminder system for infants who reach the age of 6 months during the flu season to ensure these young infants are vaccinated on schedule.