A national survey found that U.S. adults are more concerned about influenza (flu) this season compared to the 2011-12 season. Yet, despite heightened concerns, few take actions to stop the spread of flu. Among those surveyed, 41 percent receive an annual flu vaccine after flu hits their local area. And when sick with flu, only 32 percent would contact a healthcare professional despite knowing that flu is treatable.
The National Foundation for Infectious Diseases (NFID) conducted the Flu Preparedness survey as part of their “Why Weather Flu?” campaign to remind all that there is no need to “weather the flu.” Flu is preventable and treatable.
“It is encouraging that individuals are paying more attention to flu this year. However, people need to know that seasonal flu is a serious public health threat every year,” says Susan J. Rehm, MD, NFID's medical director. “An estimated 5 percent to 20 percent of people in the U.S. get the flu each year and more than 200,000 are hospitalized yearly from seasonal flu-related complications.” It is not just children and the elderly that are at high risk. Last year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the flu was particularly hard on young and middle-aged adults. In fact, those age 18-64 years represented 61% of all flu-related hospitalizations.
What can you do?
1. Get vaccinated every year. Everyone six months of age and older should get vaccinated annually. In the two weeks following vaccination, the body will build antibodies to help fight the flu. Waiting until flu is in your area to get vaccinated could leave you unprotected.
2. When flu activity is in your area, remember Flu F.A.C.T.S (Fever, Aches, Chills, Tiredness and Sudden Onset) to distinguish from other circulating viruses or a cold, which is usually less severe and often includes a runny nose.
3. Feeling sick? Act fast and contact a healthcare professional. Rapid flu tests are available. If you have the flu, prescription flu medicines are available to help shorten the time you are sick if taken within the first 48 hours of symptoms.
“Flu is highly contagious and easily spreads from one person to the next,” says Marysol Castro, nationally-recognized weather forecaster for both New York metropolitan and national TV news programs. “Just as we track weather patterns, using flu trackers like those found online at FluFACTS.com and nfid.org helps us know the severity of flu in our area.” Additional flu resources include a symptom checker and urgent care locator.
Additional survey results:
• 43% are not aware that there are prescription medicines available that a healthcare professional can prescribe to help treat the flu
• Nearly two-thirds (62 percent) feel it is important to contact a healthcare professional immediately when experiencing flu, but when sick, only about one-third (32 percent) actually do so
• More than half of individuals (56 percent) surveyed underestimate the number of hospitalizations due to flu, suggesting that many do not realize how serious the flu can be
• Compared to those who have never had the flu before, individuals who have experienced the flu are significantly more likely to be concerned about flu season, consider the flu serious, get a flu vaccine and stay home from work or school when sick
• Seven out of 10 parents are concerned their child will get the flu this season. Parents are twice as likely to call a doctor if their child has the flu, rather than if they get the flu
• Income and education levels appear to have no influence on whether someone recalls previously having had the flu or not
The Flu Preparedness survey was supported by Genentech, a member of the Roche Group.
The 2014 Flu Preparedness survey was conducted using Research Now’s opt-in online consumer panel with approximately three million members. National survey findings are based on an online survey with a sample of 1,000 adults, 18 years and older. The survey included quotas for gender, age and race/ethnicity to ensure the sample resembles the U.S. adult population, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Survey data was collected between Sept. 30 and Oct. 6, 2014.
Source: National Foundation for Infectious Diseases (NFID)