Meeting the Challenge of Influenza

FRANKLIN LAKES, N.J. -- BD (Becton, Dickinson and Company) is responding to the current public health issue regarding influenza with the introduction of "Get Clued to the Flu," a public awareness campaign that emphasizes the continuum of care during the flu season. The program delivers a four-part message: Get Informed -- Get Dosed -- Get Diagnosed -- and Get Well. Each message outlines options for helping to reduce the impact of influenza.

"Influenza is a public health concern," said David Durack, MD, vice president, Medical Affairs, BD. "Particularly in light of the current influenza vaccine shortage, our goals are to educate the public about their options across the continuum of care in the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of influenza."

Get Informed is the first step in "Get Clued to the Flu." "The public needs practical information on flu prevention, including strategies to reduce risk, which under normal circumstances include flu vaccines and now more than ever require good hygiene practices, such as covering up sneezes and frequent hand washing," states Mary Beth Koslap-Petraco, MS, CPNP, chair of the National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners (NAPNAP) Immunization Special Interest Group.

Get Dosed is the second step in "Get Clued to the Flu." With the shortage of flu vaccine, the CDC has recommended that flu shots be reserved for those at highest risk of complications if they get the flu. "The reason they are at high risk is if they acquire the disease it may be more severe, run a longer course, or make them susceptible to secondary infections leading to pneumonia or other complications," explains David Neumann, PhD, executive director of National Partnership for Immunization. "Each year 200,000 people in the United States are hospitalized because of flu and its complications."

Public health organizations and industry are endeavoring to reach those most at risk and find ways to extend the vaccine supply. For example, use of dose-saving syringes following proper clinical procedure can minimize the waste of unused vaccine, which may occur with the use of traditional syringes. Single unit, pre-filled syringes help deliver precise dosing of vaccine for infants ages six to 23 months. And for some healthy persons who are five to 49 years of age and not pregnant, an intranasally administered flu vaccine mist can deliver needle-free immunization.

"Pharmacists, healthcare professionals and the CDC Web site can help identify who should get vaccinated," explains Mitchel Rothholz, RPh, vice president, Professional Practice for the American Pharmacists Association (APhA). "Patients should speak to their healthcare professional to determine the options available within their community. Individuals who do not meet current CDC indications for the available vaccines are encouraged to defer getting vaccinated to allow other patients in need to be immunized."

"BD technology includes a wide variety of advanced vaccine delivery systems that offer important options in the effort to prevent the spread of influenza and extend the vaccine supply," said Kenneth Kassler-Taub, MD, vice president Medical Affairs, BD Medical. "These include the BD Hypak(TM) glass pre-fillable syringe system, the BD Integra(TM) syringes designed specifically to maximize the number of doses obtained from multi-dose medication vials, and the BD Accuspray(TM) nasal spray system that enables needle-free intranasal delivery of the flu vaccine."

Looking toward the future, BD is also working to develop novel vaccine delivery systems designed to administer vaccines directly into the intradermal layer of the skin. These systems may yield a greater immune response, and potentially lower the required dose, thereby allowing many more vaccinations to occur with a given amount of vaccine.

Get Diagnosed forms the third part of the BD effort to reduce the spread of the flu. "This year, with less people being protected by flu vaccine, it is even more important for individuals who feel sick to see a healthcare provider to confirm if they have the flu," said Michael Towns, MD, vice president, Medical Affairs, BD Diagnostics. "Rapid detection of the flu virus allows physicians to confirm the diagnosis. When merited, treatment within two days of the onset of symptoms can reduce the severity of the symptoms, shorten the duration of the illness and reduce the time period when those who are ill with influenza are infectious to others."

The BD Directigen(TM) Flu A+B Test can quickly detect the presence of the flu virus, and identify type A or type B, in less than 15 minutes. Differentiating the flu type can help guide healthcare providers in the selection of appropriate treatment.

"The flu can be a serious disease," said Ms. Koslap-Petraco. "It is extremely important to see your healthcare provider as soon as you feel sick to be properly diagnosed. You can be treated, and you can take steps to reduce your contact with others and the potential spread of infection. Again, cover your sneeze, wash your hands frequently, and stay home if you're sick."

Get Well is the final step in the continuum of care for the illness. Children, as well as adults who are sick with the flu should be kept home until they have been without fever for 24 hours to prevent spreading illness to others. With fever often a symptom of the flu, monitoring the temperature of the patient is as important as bed rest and fluids.

BD addresses this need with its line of quality digital thermometers, including the child-friendly SpongeBob SquarePants(TM) and the recently launched Dora the Explorer(TM) thermometers. They provide a fast reading, have a night light display, and the memory records the last temperature taken.

Expanded resources for "Get Clued to the Flu" can be found at http://www.bd.com/flu, a hub for timely and relevant information on the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of influenza. The site features information on the continuum of care, from prevention to diagnosis to treatment, in caring for loved ones to minimize suffering from the flu.

Source: BD (Becton, Dickinson and Company)

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