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Flu activity is ‘still high and widespread,’ claiming lives and costing employers

This deadly flu season rages on with, as of Friday, 53 children nationwide having died from the flu. Hospitalization rates are the highest they have been since CDC started tracking that in 2010. And there still may be several more weeks remaining in this flu season, the top CDC official warned late last week [1].

In a Friday briefing, Anne Schuchat, MD, acting director of CDC, said, “Unfortunately, our latest tracking data indicate flu activity is still high and widespread.”

Schuchat, who is leading CDC’s flu-fighting efforts after the resignation of Brenda Fitzgerald [2], said it is still not too late to get a flu vaccine. She recommends citizens to do so if they haven’t already despite the resistance of Influenza A H3N2 viruses.

Schuchat also encourages everyone to wash their hands and properly cover mouths when coughing or sneezing. One Florida nurse shared the same sentiment, albeit with a little more sass, in a recent video that went viral over the weekend [3].

While the loss of life is the main concern for CDC, Schuchat this morning pointed out on Twitter that the flu leads to billions of dollars in lost productivity each year.

(Pink, however, stiff-armed the flu to sing the national anthem at the Super Bowl [4].)

Schuchat’s tweet included a link to a website encouraging employers to protect their workforce [5]. There, CDC data shows how vaccinations cut down on flu-related illnesses and medical visits–and, in turn, lost productivity for employers.

Mandatory vaccinations are a hot topic in healthcare. CDC has advocated for years that all healthcare workers get vaccinated annually. A couple of weeks ago, we wrote in this space about some things that healthcare leaders should ponder [6] when considering making flu shots mandatory at their hospital or clinic.

Establishing a mandatory flu vaccine policy before the end of this deadly flu season is probably unrealistic at this point given the hoops that must be jumped through to make that happen. But perhaps this can get the ball rolling for next year.