Americans urged to get flu shots following record-breaking flu season

PHILADELPHIA—(BUSINESS WIRE)—The flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses that can develop into mild to severe illnesses or even death. Last year’s flu season was one of the worst in more than a decade, resulting in a “high-severity” classification that saw 172 reported child deaths and 19 consecutive weeks of record-breaking flu hospitalizations nationwide.

To avoid another hard-hitting season, healthcare professionals are encouraging people to get flu shots, yet there is a concern that some groups might not take heed to the warning.

According to a 2017 report released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), African Americans nationwide were less likely to get a flu shot than white Americans amid concerns of side effects and efficacy. The CDC study, which included 800 white and 800 African Americans participants, found that only 41 percent of African American adults received the flu shot compared with 47 percent of white adults.

A separate CDC report shows that the rate of Hispanic adults is even lower – just 39 percent.

“It’s clear that there is a need for healthcare professionals to make every effort to create environments where patients feel valued, believe they are getting access to the best treatment possible and have faith in the advice of their providers, especially when it comes to preventing the flu,” said Dr. Andrea Gelzer, senior vice president of medical affairs with AmeriHealth Caritas, a national leader in Medicaid managed care and other health care solutions for those most in need. “When groups of people choose to forgo getting vaccinated, there is an increased likelihood of health disparities that can cause serious and even fatal consequences.”

Dr. Gelzer believes healthcare professionals must help patients understand the benefits of getting a flu vaccination and work to ensure that any concerns and misperceptions are addressed. She stressed that having a primary care physician who can provide accurate and helpful information is essential.

Flu season generally starts as early as October and can run through May. Flu activity most commonly peaks in the United States between December and February. According to the CDC, influenza kills between 12,000 and 49,000 people every year and can send more than 700,000 people to the hospital.