Bobby Redwood, M.D., M.P.H.
President, Wisconsin Chapter, American College of Emergency Physicians
August is national immunization awareness month and a great opportunity to discuss the role that Wisconsin emergency physicians play in immunization care. We all know that every emergency is a failure of prevention, so some careful planning now can help us stave off the flood of infectious diseases that is bound to hit our ED's during the winter months.
While the southern US is scrambling to deal with Zika, we northerners already know who our enemy will be this winter: influenza. Wisconsin department of health services releases weekly influenza reports and rates this week remain low in all regions of Wisconsin. Typically our influenza numbers start to skyrocket in the second week of November and don't level off again until the second week of May. That's seven months of headaches, body aches, and pediatric fevers that we would rather not have end up on our doorstep. In the 2015-2016 flu season, Wisconsin saw 5,136 cases of influenza...and that's just the cases that were confirmed.
So let's talk prevention! For those vaccine geeks out there, the trivalent vaccines for use in the 2016-2017 influenza season will contain the following virus-like strains: A/California/7/2009 (H1N1); A/Hong Kong/4801/2014, and B/Brisbane/60/2008. No one knows (yet) what strains the 2017-2018 vaccine will contain...let's hope its not called A/Wisconsin/2016. We'll find out soon enough, CDC expects the 2016-2017 vaccine to available later this month for at-risk populations and available for all populations by the first week of September.
On your next shift, take some time to educate your patients about the importance of getting their flu shot early. How about celebrating August by taking the WACEP national immunization awareness month challenge: try to educate one patient in each of the following age groups about the importance of vaccination in general:
- Parents: Emphasize the important role vaccines play in protecting their child's health;
- College students: Remind them to talk to their healthcare professional about any vaccines they may need for school entry;
- Adults, especially older adults and adults with chronic conditions: When appropriate, encourage vaccines for shingles, pertussis, pneumococcus, and flu;
- Pregnant women: Talk about getting vaccinated to protect newborns from diseases like pertussis and flu;
- Everyone: Let Wisconsinites know that the next flu season is only a few months away.