2016-2017 Influenza Season
It's time to prepare for the 2016-2017 influenza (flu) season. Influenza virus infection can be more serious than the common cold for children. Each year, many children get sick with flu, which can result in hospitalization or death. The 2015-2016 flu season resulted in the deaths of 85 children. One death from influenza is one death too many.
Get your influenza vaccination by the end of October, if possible! Influenza immunization is the single best way to reduce flu illness. It's critically important for everyone to get vaccinated against influenza every year, including children, parents, and child care staff.
Annual influenza vaccine is recommended for all people 6 months of age and older. Children younger than 5, but especially children younger than 2 years old, are at an increased risk of hospitalization and complications due to influenza. Since infants younger than 6 months are too young to get flu vaccine, the best way to protect these very young children is for all family members and caregivers of children to get the flu vaccine. This is called "cocooning", and it is especially important for adults who care for infants younger than 6 months.
Pregnant caregivers are at high risk of severe illness from influenza. Flu shots may be given to pregnant women at any time during pregnancy. The vaccine is a safe way to protect the mother and her developing baby from serious illness and complications from flu. By getting a flu shot during pregnancy, a mother can pass on protection against flu to her newborn baby that will last through the first several months of life.
This Season's Flu Vaccine
The flu vaccine protects against either 3 virus strains (trivalent) or 4 virus strains (quadrivalent). Included in the vaccine are the strains that are anticipated to circulate in the US this flu season:
Influenza A (H1N1)
Influenza A (H3N2)
The quadrivalent vaccine protects against the same 3 strains that are in the trivalent vaccine and an additional influenza B strain. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) does not have a preference of one vaccine over another this season. The important thing is to make sure everyone gets a flu vaccine!
This season, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the AAP recommend that the nasal spray flu vaccine (live attenuated influenza vaccine or LAIV4) not be used at all this flu season because of its poor effectiveness the past 3 years. Therefore, people should only be vaccinated by injection with inactivated influenza vaccines this season.
Prepare Ahead to Prevent the Spread of Germs
Once flu season starts, it can be challenging to keep germs from spreading. While you can catch the flu any time of the year, the virus is most common in the US in the fall and winter usually peaking between January and March. It can be difficult to tell the difference between flu and the common cold based on symptoms alone. The flu is often worse than the common cold. Some people, however, can be infected with the flu virus and have no symptoms, but still spread the virus to others.
Policies in your child care center can limit the spread of the influenza and should focus on encouraging vaccination and on everyday preventive actions like good respiratory etiquette, hand washing; cleaning, sanitizing, and disinfecting; and excluding children and caregivers who have respiratory symptoms (cough, runny nose, or sore throat) and fever. The child can return to the center after the fever has resolved (without the use of fever-reducing medicine), the child is able to participate in normal activities, and staff can care for the child without compromising their ability to care for the other children in the group.
Take Steps TODAY to Help Your Program Prepare
Get your flu vaccine by the end of October, if possible, and encourage all staff, children, and parents to get the flu vaccine. Everyone needs a flu vaccine each year!
Get on the list to receive details about the AAP influenza webinar on Friday, November 18, 2016, at 2:00pm ET/1:00pm CT. E-mail DisasterReady@aap.org for information and a calendar appointment.
Complete the free AAP/Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) online course "Influenza Prevention & Control: Strategies for Early Education & Child Care Providers."
Help families and community leaders understand the important roles they play in reducing the spread of flu. Review the handout "Influenza Prevention and Control: Strategies for Early Education and Child Care Programs" in English and Spanish.
Examine and revise your program's written plan for seasonal flu.
Invite a pediatrician or child care health consultant to provide influenza prevention education to your staff.
Use CDC posters and handouts to educate caregivers and staff about proper hand hygiene and cough/sneeze etiquette.
Update family contact information and child records, so parents can be reached quickly if they need to pick up their sick child.
Additional Information from HealthyChildren.org: