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Educating Patients About The 2020 Flu Season

Discussion in 'Microbiology' started by Mahmoud Abudeif, Feb 28, 2020.

  1. Mahmoud Abudeif

    Mahmoud Abudeif Golden Member

    Mar 5, 2019
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    As a health care provider, you undoubtedly understand the importance of patient education. The more people know about how to stay healthy, the easier your job becomes. The 2020 flu season gives you excellent opportunities to educate patients so they can avoid getting sick.

    Emphasize the Severity of the Situation

    Most people don’t think of the flu as a potentially fatal illness. Instead, they assume if they get it, they’ll feel terrible for a week or so, then be nearly back to normal. Also, the availability of Tamiflu, a prescription medication that can reduce or prevent symptoms, may make people believe the flu is not a major concern.

    However, many doctors conclude that Tamiflu does not work well enough to justify its high costs. Also, people forget that the flu can be fatal. Complications are more likely in kids, older adults and individuals with compromised immune systems.

    Patient education should start by providing some statistics to show why the flu is so dangerous. For example, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a batch of preliminary estimates about flu deaths, doctor visits and hospitalizations. It found that from Oct. 1, 2019, to Jan. 4, 2020, as many as 14 million people have gotten sick with the flu, and up to 6.5 million sought medical care for it.

    The CDC also reported up to 150,000 hospitalizations and as many as 12,000 deaths. If patients seem too casual when you recommend they get flu shots or take preventive measures to stop the spread, consider mentioning some of these statistics to give them more balanced perspectives.

    Explain How the Flu Spreads

    Your patients may not realize that handwashing is the single most important thing they can do to keep from getting sick and stop germs from spreading. Explain how they need to scrub their hands and wrists for 20 seconds before rinsing. Mention that flu viruses are often transmitted through touch.

    People may also bring up other kinds of illnesses that are going around. For example, African swine fever has been a danger for pigs, especially in Europe and Asia. The disease spreads through ticks, as well as direct and indirect contact with infected animals. However, an important distinction is although some sicknesses can start in animals and spread to people, the African swine fever is not one of them.

    As you steer conversations back to how humans get sick with the flu, remind patients that another simple thing they can do is to get in the habit of sneezing and coughing into their elbow or a tissue that they discard immediately after use. Many people are accustomed to covering their mouths with their hands. However, doing that and then touching surfaces like door handles or phones promotes the spread of the flu.

    Finally, if people feel like they’re coming down with the flu, they should stay home from work and avoid visiting people who are in the hospital. Many individuals want to keep doing as much as they can until they feel sick enough that there’s no choice but to rest. However, staying home is an ideal way to recover and not get others sick.

    Clarify Misunderstandings About the Flu Shot

    Each year, experts aim to create a flu vaccine that’s as effective as possible against the most prevalent influenza viruses. Some early evidence suggested that this year’s vaccination was not as well matched as anticipated. If patients hear about it, they may think it’s not worth it to get a flu shot. However, let them know that even if there is a mismatch with one of the flu strains, the vaccine can still provide immunity against others.

    Another misconception is that people can get the flu from receiving the vaccine. Explain that a vaccine has only dead or weakened flu viruses. However, the shots do cause an immune response that can bring mild symptoms like a low-grade fever or achy muscles along with it. Also, it takes about two weeks for immunity to develop, and a person can still get the flu during that window.

    The flu shot is not appropriate for everyone. For example, people should not receive it if they are under 6 months of age or allergic to any component of the vaccine. Patients should always discuss any concerns with their doctor before agreeing to the vaccination. For the most part, though, receiving a yearly shot is a safe, effective way to avoid getting the illness.

    Flu Education Goes a Long Way

    Influenza is a serious public health concern. Going through these tips with your patients should help them stay healthy as this year’s flu season runs its course.


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