What will this year’s flu season look like?

Australia is wrapping up a severe flu season. Will the U.S. face the same fate?

This piece is authored by Jorge Salinas, MD, hospital epidemiologist and infectious disease specialist. 

You might have seen reports in the news about the flu season this year in Australia. So far this year, just under 300,000 laboratory-confirmed notifications of influenza were reported, according to the Australian Department of Health.

But can we really predict how severe the flu season will be here in the states based on these reports?

The short answer: Not really. The severity of flu seasons can be very difficult to predict. The Program of Hospital Epidemiology monitors the influenza situation in the United States and elsewhere and adjusts recommendations accordingly. UI Hospitals & Clinics takes influenza preparedness seriously. Regardless of the flu season severity, you can take a few basic steps to help prepare and prevent the flu in our community and workplace.

First, get the flu vaccine. This is your best defense against the flu. It takes our bodies about two weeks after receiving the vaccine to develop antibodies that provide protection against infection. Vaccinations are free to employees and volunteers. I can’t emphasize enough how important this is.

Second—and this should be routine at this point—practice good hand hygiene. This is essential to stopping the spread of viruses and bacteria. Wash hands with soap and water frequently or use an alcohol-based hand gel—particularly after coughing or sneezing.

Finally, be smart about the flu. If you are sick, wait at least 24 hours after your fever is gone to come back into work. Cover your nose and mouth with the crook of an arm or sleeve, not your hand, when coughing or sneezing. Throw used tissues in the trash. Do not share food, drink, or utensils.

I can’t look into the future and tell you how severe the flu season will be this year. What I can tell you is that each and every one of you—from front-line nurses to finance and HCIS employees—play a role in preventing the flu.

If you haven’t already, all UI Health Care employees and volunteers should make plans to participate in the employee and volunteer flu campaign. You must login to ReadySet and complete the flu survey to record your participation in the campaign. (This includes if you received the flu vaccination elsewhere or are declining to receive the vaccine.)