SCGhealth Blog


Common Flu Myths and How to Combat Them

Wednesday, November 08, 2017

By Audrey Landers, Intern

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 59% of children and 43.3% of adults received the flu shot for the 2016-2017 flu season. Vaccination Coverage has risen steadily over the past seven years and in order to continue that trend, it is important to vaccinate as many people as possible. While many people are easily persuaded, there are unfortunately many people who will refuse due to a misunderstanding or even fear of the influenza vaccine, as well as vaccines in general. In order to make a strong vaccine recommendation this season, it is important to know some of the most common myths surrounding the flu shot, and how to approach them with your patients.

Myth 1: The flu shot has the flu in it, it will make me sick!
This common fear is rooted in the knowledge that the influenza virus is used to create vaccines, however this is only a half-truth. Explaining the difference between the active influenza virus that causes illness and the inactive virus used in the vaccine may help to change their minds. You can also explain that the vaccine typically takes two weeks to become fully active, meaning it is still possible to get the flu during that two-week period. As Jennifer Searfoss, Founder of SCG Health puts it: “You don’t get the flu from the flu shot, you get it from all the sick people waiting to get the shot.”

Myth 2: It’s already November, so it’s too late for me to get vaccinated.
While November may seem late to get the flu shot, the truth is that it may be the perfect time. The influenza vaccine typically takes two weeks to become fully active so getting vaccinated in November means it will be effective just in time for the peak of the flu season in January. Even if they don’t get the vaccine until much later, the flu season is longer than many people realize. The flu season can last until May so it is never too late to get your flu shot.

Myth 3: I already got my flu shot last year so I don’t need to get another one.
This misconception may be caused by the fact that other vaccinations are typically long-lasting with no need for a new one each year. Unlike diseases like measles and whooping cough, the influenza virus changes at an extremely fast rate, meaning that new strains may be prominent each year. Even if the strain prominence doesn’t change from one year to another, the CDC still recommends that the flu vaccine be received every year in order to ensure that the immune system can provide the best defense against the flu.

Myth 4: The flu isn’t even that bad!
Too many patients underestimate the severity of the flu. The truth is that influenza can be a fast-acting and deadly disease. Every year, an estimated 50,000 people die due to influenza or complications relating to the virus, with as many as 700,000 people being hospitalized.
By pointing out the danger of not only the disease itself but also the possible complications, you may be able to sway patients who believe the flu is something they can just “get over” with some chicken noodle soup and bed rest.

Myth 5: Vaccines are dangerous!
Instead of focusing on the safety of the vaccine itself, one study suggests that discussing the severity of the illness may be more effective in changing this sort of patient’s mind. Because many of these patients develop their belief by reading heart wrenching “horror-stories” about vaccines that circulate on social media, one way to combat their attitude may be to present your own horror story about the disease the vaccine prevents. Many anecdotal stories of changing a patient’s mind suggest listening to concerns without judgement while maintaining that vaccination is the way to go.

This blog post was written as part of the CDC’s blog-a-thon to spread influenza vaccine awareness. To learn more about current influenza vaccine recommendations, you can check out our previous post or head over to the CDC’s website. We’ve also written about how to avoid the flu in the workplace as part of the blog-a-thon.

CDC Blog-a-thon


Keep an eye out for the #FluStory Twitter storm on December 6 and be sure to share your #FluStory to help spread awareness.


Avoiding the Flu in the Workplace

Monday, November 06, 2017

By Audrey Landers, Intern

It is a cruel cosmic joke that the influenza season takes place during the busiest and most stressful time of the year. No one can afford to be sick during the holiday season, especially not medical office staff. Without proper precautions, the flu can infect an entire office, leaving employees trying to perform their duties through a haze of fatigue, or worse, being unable to come in at all. With a few simple steps, you can minimize the effect that the flu will have on your workplace.

Encourage Vaccination
Recent studies performed by the Center for Disease Control & Prevention(CDC) show that the flu vaccine is between 40% and 60% effective. This year, the CDC recommends injectable flu vaccines, so make sure your employees know not to get the nasal spray. You can encourage employees to get the flu vaccine by allowing them to take time during the work-day to get the shot. Have shots performed in the office by clinical staff for free or offer to reimburse shots received at a qualified location.

Encourage Good Health Habits
While your employees should already be partaking in good health habits such as hand washing, it is even more important during the flu season. Every employee should wash their hands frequently for at least 20 seconds with soap and water. Make sure all bathrooms are stocked with soap and hand sanitizer. displaying signs in bathrooms and above sinks can help remind forgetful or neglectful employees and patients about the importance of clean hands. 

Beware of Fomites
As SCG Health has discussed before on this blog, fomites are objects that have the capability to carry infectious organisms that might transfer from one person to another. While you may already be in the habit of regularly cleaning fomites such as stethoscopes and patient exam tables, other less obvious fomites are hiding right under your nose. Anything that is touched by many people in one day should be sanitized regularly. Common office items such as keyboards and computer mice are major fomites that should be sanitized regularly with a bleach-based cleaner. You should also be paying special attention to doorknobs, especially those connected to bathroom doors.

Deal with your Patient Lobbies
Lobbies full of sick patients can easily become a breeding ground for the flu. Some practices are able to avoid the spread of illness by offering separate lobbies for patients who are sick and patients who are not. If your practice cannot offer two lobbies or if you feel you need to take further precautions, you have a number of options. Having disposable face masks and hand sanitizer dispensers in patient areas can allow patients to take their health into their own hands. You can also keep sanitizing wipes on hand to quickly wipe down chairs, toys, and other items that many patients may come into contact with. Prominently displayed posters can also instruct patients on how to keep the flu from spreading by covering their mouth when they sneeze or cough.

Tell Sick Employees to Stay Home
If you can afford it, you should encourage employees who may be sick and contagious to stay home. The CDC recommends that any employee with a fever should remain away from work until 24 hours after their fever has ended without medication.

This blog post was written as part of the CDC’s blog-a-thon to spread influenza vaccine awareness. To learn more about current influenza vaccine recommendations, you can check out our previous post or head over to the CDC’s website to learn everything you need to know.

CDC Blog-a-thon

Keep an eye out for the #FluStory Twitter storm on December 6 and be sure to share your #FluStory to help spread awareness.


2017-2018 Influenza Vaccine Recommendations

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

By Audrey Landers, Intern

For those in the medical community, autumn brings endless sniffles, coughs and most importantly, the annual influenza season. Since 2010, the Center for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) has recommended that Americans 6 months and older receive the influenza vaccine in order to control the spread of the disease. Suppliers began shipping out vaccines for the 2017-2018 influenza season in September.

Keep your patients strong. Vaccinate. Fight Flu.

Recommended 2017-2018 Vaccines
Vaccines for the 2017-2018 flu season will be available in the forms of a needle injection, a jet injection and an intranasal spray. These include the Inactivated Influenza Vaccines (IIVs) as well as Recombinant Influenza Vaccines (RIVs) in both trivalent and quadrivalent formulas. For this coming flu season, the CDC has recommended only the injectable influenza vaccines with the following options:

  • Standard dose injections
  • High dose injections
  • Injections made with adjuvant
  • Injections made with virus grown in cell culture
  • Injections made with vaccine production technology that does not require the flu virus

All of the flu vaccines licensed in the United States for the 2017-2018 season will contain the following influenza strains:

  • An A/Michigan/45/2015(H1N1)pdm09-like virus
  • An A/Hong Kong/4801/2014(H3N2)-like virus
  • A B/Brisbane/60/2008-like virus
  • A B/Phuket/3073/2013-like virus (quadrivalent only)

No single recommended vaccine is preferred over the others. If you have more than one vaccine type available, you may use your own discretion to select what is appropriate for each patient.

Not Recommended
Due to its ineffectiveness during the 2013-2014 and 2015-2016 flu seasons, intranasal sprays, also known as Live Attenuated Influenza Vaccines (LAIV4), are not recommended for the coming 2017-2018 flu season. Currently the only LAIV4 vaccine on the market is FluMist Quadrivalent, produced by MedImmune. If your practice has access to this vaccine, note that it is not recommended by the CDC.

Quality Reporting with MIPS #110: Preventative Care and Screening- Influenza Immunization
MIPS #110: Preventative care and Screening- Influenza Immunization is the percentage of patients aged 6 months and older seen for an in office visit between January 1 and March 31 AND October 1 and December 31 who received an influenza immunization OR who reported previous receipt of an influenza immunization.

 

 Office Visit
 Quality Data Code
 Service Provided
 January 1, 2017 - March 31, 2017

AND

October 1, 2017 - December 31, 2017
 G8482
 

An influenza immunization is administered to the patient during the months of August through December or 2016 or January through March of 2017.
AND
An influenza immunization is administered to the patient during the months of August through December 2017.



 Any  G8483

 An influenza immunization was not administered for reasons documented by the clinician.



 Any  G8484

 An influenza immunization was not administered with no reason documented.



 

 

For more information, you can view the entire measure here.

Due to the difficulty some physicians may face in reporting this measure twice in one year, SCG Health strongly recommends that this measure be reported through electronic clinical quality measures (eCQM) using CMS measure ID CMS 147v6. The eCQM version only requires the measure be reported for one flu season during the calendar year.



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