Those already battling end-of-summer colds and scheduling back-to-school physicals have been forced to consider the approaching flu season and immunization updates.  Early preparation, especially for those 65 and older or individuals with a compromised immune system, may reduce the risk of influenza-related complications and morbidity if the nation experiences a repeat of the high-severity 2017-2018 season.

Dr Schroeder“During a week in February (2018), an estimated 4,000 deaths nationwide were due to influenza and pneumonia. Hospitalization rates were also markedly elevated, contributing to the staggering effect of the flu season in lives lost, days of illness and healthcare costs,” explained Stephan Schroeder, MD, CMD, CMQ, medical director for the South Dakota Foundation for Medical Care.

There are multiple types of flu vaccines, each with a different level of protection and varying age recommendations.  The majority of the population, ages 6 months and older, receives the standard vaccine (trivalent) to protect against two strains of influenza A and one strain of influenza B.  Beyond the typical flu shot, immunization options include high-dose, quadrivalent, intradermal, and live attenuated versions.  Everyone, especially those at high-risk, should consult a healthcare professional to determine the best option based on personal and family health history.

“The protective reach of immunizations goes beyond the individual to impact anyone they come in contact with,” emphasized Tracy Bieber, RN, BSN, chair of the Sioux Falls Area Immunization Coalition (SFAIC). “Many who consider themselves healthy are tempted to skip immunization and, unknowingly, infect loved ones who are vulnerable.”

This philosophy of extended reach has played out within the organization itself.  Beginning from a small group in Sioux Falls, SD, the coalition will host the second annual Immunize SD starting Friday, August 17, 2018, at the Sioux Falls Convention Center.

“Immunization is more than flu shots and well-baby checks,” Bieber added. “We have the ability to protect ourselves and others from infectious disease and a collection of common viruses that can quickly become life-threatening.”

Dr. Schroeder expanded, “Flu and pneumonia vaccination are a line of defense to the four types of infection often linked with sepsis:  lung, urinary tract, skin and gut.  Anyone can get an infection, and almost any infection can lead to sepsis.”

Increasing knowledge of sepsis to families, caregivers and ambulance crew members with the four-state region of Kansas, Nebraska, North Dakota and South Dakota is a special project of the Great Plains Quality Innovation Network.

“The emphasis on increased recognition of sepsis has encouraged the use of vaccine to help prevent the onset of pneumonia and influenza, which can trigger this serious condition,” continued Dr. Schroeder. “The proven safety and reasonable efficacy of immunizations are exemplary. They remain a significant tool to maintain health, especially in our elderly population.”