What To Do About the Flu: New 2010-2011 Guidelines

In last month’s newsletter, we reviewed four principle changes in influenza recommendations from the 2009 influenza season. In this month’s update, we will further explore these and additional changes to the 2010-2011 influenza season recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The 2010-2011 flu vaccine is made in the same way as past influenza vaccines. This year's vaccine will protect against the three main virus strains that research has indicated will cause the most illness. This season's flu vaccine will protect against 2009 H1N1, an A- H3N2 virus, and a B virus. Since the seasonal vaccine will protect against the 2009 H1N1 virus, two different flu vaccines will not be necessary this season.

The CDC's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) has issued recommendations for everyone six months of age and older, who do not have any contraindications to vaccination, to receive a flu vaccine every year. Additional recommendations include information about newly-approved flu vaccines, as well as previously-approved vaccines with expanded age indications.

ACIP recommends that children six months through eight years of age receive two doses of the 2010-2011 flu vaccine with a minimal interval of four weeks unless they have received:
• At least one dose of 2009 H1N1 flu vaccine last season; and
• At least one dose of seasonal flu vaccine prior to the 2009-2010 flu season or two doses of 2009-2010 seasonal flu vaccine.
If a child has fulfilled both of these requirements, they only need one flu vaccine.

While everyone should get a flu vaccine each flu season, it's especially important that certain groups get vaccinated either because they are at high risk of developing serious flu-related complications or because they live with or care for people at high risk of developing flu-related complications. They are:
• Pregnant women
• Children younger than five
• People 50 years of age and older
• People of any age with certain chronic medical conditions
• Immunocompromised individuals
• Residents of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities
• People who live with or care for those at high risk for complications from flu, including healthcare workers, household contacts of people at high risk for developing complications of influenza, and out-of-home caregivers to babies younger than six months old (as these children are too young to be vaccinated).

Flu vaccine shipments have already begun. Healthcare providers and clinicians are recommended to begin flu vaccination as soon as shipments arrive at their location and should continue vaccination throughout the remainder of the flu season.
A valuable resource for healthcare professionals is the CDC’s influenza website, http://www.flu.gov/ or http://www.cdc.gov/flu/.