Tag Archives: influenza

Officials air concerns about potential for worse flu season

Bara Vaida

About Bara Vaida

Bara Vaida (@barav) is AHCJ's core topic leader on infectious diseases. An independent journalist, she has written extensively about health policy and infectious diseases. Her work has appeared in outlets that include the National Journal, Agence France-Presse, Bloomberg News, McClatchy News Service, MSNBC, NPR, Politico and The Washington Post.

Public health officials have warned over the past several weeks the U.S. flu season this year may be worse than usual following a tough flu season in Australia.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases told CNN that “in general, we get in our season what the Southern Hemisphere got in the season immediately preceding us and an intelligent guess” is that North America will most likely have a bad flu season.

Further, Dr. Daniel Jernigan, influenza chief at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention told the Associated Press that: “We don’t know what’s going to happen, but there’s a chance we could have a season similar to Australia.” Continue reading

Confusion persists over timing of flu shots for older adults

Liz Seegert

About Liz Seegert

Liz Seegert (@lseegert), is AHCJ’s topic editor on aging. Her work has appeared in NextAvenue.com, Journal of Active Aging, Cancer Today, Kaiser Health News, the Connecticut Health I-Team and other outlets. She is a senior fellow at the Center for Health Policy and Media Engagement at George Washington University and co-produces the HealthCetera podcast.

Photo: KOMUnews via Flickr

Photo: KOMUnews via Flickr

Fall has arrived so it’s time for older adults to get their flu shots. Or is it?

Older adults are at greater risk of serious complications of the disease than those under age 65, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. They recommend that everyone get vaccinated by the end of October, if possible, as the best way to prevent the flu. Continue reading

Hospitals to workers: Get flu shot or get fired

Andrew Van Dam

About Andrew Van Dam

Andrew Van Dam of The Wall Street Journal previously worked at the AHCJ offices while earning his master’s degree at the Missouri School of Journalism, and he has blogged for Covering Health ever since.

In a story that could be replicated in many areas, The Morning Call‘s Tim Darragh writes that hopitals, both locally and nationally, are pushing hard for workers – both medical and otherwise – to get flu vaccines, as the Joint Commission moves toward stiffer requirements and CMS threatens to cut reimbursement rates for non-compliant hospitals.

Photo by Lance McCord via Flickr

Some of the Lehigh Valley region’s hospitals…. are mandating employees get flu vaccines if they have contact with patients — even if the employees don’t want the shots. If they don’t comply or get a valid exemption, they will be fired.

The list of staff affected by the policy is broad. It includes not only doctors and nurses and others directly involved in patient care but also housekeeping and maintenance workers.

Across the country, the stricter regulations seem to be making a difference, Darragh reports. A health system in Ohio has already issued termination notices to non-vaccinated workers, and even civil rights advocates known for taking the workers’ side admit that it is difficult to argue that hospital workers shouldn’t be vaccinated.

The ever popular (and quotable) Dr. Arthur Kaplan agrees.

Without greater compliance, the work environment won’t attain a level of immunity that will provide sufficient protection to the sick, said Dr. Arthur Caplan, a bioethicist at New York University’s Langone Medical Center. “You don’t get the ‘herd immunity’ until you hit 90 percent,” said Caplan, a proponent of mandatory vaccinations.

Guidelines for releasing information in public health crisis still in the works

Pia Christensen

About Pia Christensen

Pia Christensen (@AHCJ_Pia) is the managing editor/online services for AHCJ. She manages the content and development of healthjournalism.org, coordinates AHCJ's social media efforts and edits and manages production of association guides, programs and newsletters.

When North Carolina officials recently announced the death of a teenager as a result of the flu but gave out little other information, reporter Rose Hoban, R.N., of North Carolina Public Radio, had a sense of deja vu. Hoban is a member of AHCJ’s Right to Know Committee, which has dealt with exactly this issue.

Some background:
During the H1N1 pandemic, reporters found a wide variation in what information local and state health officials were disclosing about H1N1 deaths. As a result, representatives of AHCJ, including Hoban, met with health officials representing the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials and the group agreed on flexible guidelines specifying what information should be released about victims in a public health crisis.

Last week, Hoban filed an update about the issue on her blog with comments from Gene Matthews, who is a senior fellow at the North Carolina Institute of Public Health and was the lead counsel for the CDC for 25 years. She also checked with ASTHO about the status of the draft guidelines and was told, “I don’t think it’s going to disappear, fall into oblivion …”

Lack of vaccination, awareness worsen UK flu season

Andrew Van Dam

About Andrew Van Dam

Andrew Van Dam of The Wall Street Journal previously worked at the AHCJ offices while earning his master’s degree at the Missouri School of Journalism, and he has blogged for Covering Health ever since.

The Guardian‘s Denis Campbell and Sarah Boseley report that a drop in vaccination rates and a lack of public awareness has made this flu season worse than it should have been, and that there is potential for the NHS to be “inundated” with flu cases. The story has spread quickly in the UK, and may be providing just the sort of public awareness campaign that the reporters found was previously lacking.

Professor Steve Field, who until last month was the chairman of the Royal College of General Practitioners, spoke out as the Department of Health revealed there are more than 300 people in critical care beds with flu and 17 people have died.
Field said the decision not to encourage the public to have a jab to protect themselves was “ill-advised” and needed to be urgently reversed.
The NHS should have acted more decisively to encourage people to have the jab because it was known that H1N1 swine flu was still circulating and that few NHS staff had the swine flu vaccine when it was offered to them late last year.


For more European health news, see AHCJ’s Covering Europe initiative.