Thursday, January 1, 2015
Influenza (commonly known as the flu) is a viral infection of the respiratory tract that spreads easily from person to person, most commonly in the late fall and winter months. Onset of symptoms is typically sudden and includes fever, chills, cough, sore throat, nasal congestion, and muscle pain. Those most at risk for developing health complications include children less than 5 years of age, adults more than 65 years of age, and individuals with chronic diseases, such as diabetes and cancer. Combined with regular hand washing, the influenza vaccine is the best way to protect oneself and others from the flu.
To reduce rates of influenza, the annual Universal Influenza Immunization Program (UIIP), funded by the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care (MOHLTC), offers influenza immunizations at no cost to individuals aged 6 months and older in Ontario.
In support of the UIIP, each year Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health (WDG Public Health) conducts an Influenza Program to encourage individuals, particularly those considered high-risk and those who are in close contact with high-risk persons (e.g. healthcare workers), to receive the influenza vaccine. WDG Public Health offers the influenza vaccine at scheduled community clinics, through Public Health appointments, and by distributing vaccines to community partners (e.g. physicians, pharmacies). Public Health evaluates its Influenza Program each year to monitor reported cases of the flu, to identify immunization trends, and to encourage immunization rates by improving its own influenza clinics.
Below is an overview of the key findings highlighted in this report on the 2014-2015 influenza season.
• WDG Public Health administered a total of 5,494 influenza doses through: 11 community clinics (2,376 doses), Public Health appointments (800 doses, 104 FluMist doses), and through two sponsored clinics (2,214).
• Vaccine distribution to pharmacies continues to increase with each influenza season (26,330 distributed in 2014-2015 season, a 35% increase since the 2013-2014 season).
• WDG Public Health community clinic attendance rates continue to decrease, likely due to increasing vaccine availability at pharmacies since 2012.
• Among clients who completed the WDG Public Health clinic survey, 97% were satisfied with their clinic experience.
• The most popular clinic promotional tools were newspaper advertisements, the WDG Public Health website and word of mouth.
• Immunization rates for healthcare workers in long-term care and retirement homes increased since last season. However, they remain relatively low among hospitals (52.5%).
Based on the evidence presented in this report, the following is a summary of the key recommendations to strengthen WDG Public Health’s Influenza Program for the 2015-2016 influenza season.
- Continue to promote the FluMist vaccine as a vaccine alternative.
• Consider promoting FluMist in local newspaper advertisements and through WDG Public Health’s website and social media accounts;
• Provide FluMist factsheets at community clinics and Public Health offices during future influenza seasons to increase public awareness.
- Continue using clinic advertisements in local newspapers, provide the complete WDG community clinic schedule on Public Health’s website, and promote clinics through its social media accounts.
- Increase clinic signage outside locations and inside establishments well in advance of clinic dates.
- Continue to distribute copies of the Healthcare Worker Fact Sheet to hospitals, LTCHs, and RHs to encourage HCW immunization among this segment of the population.
- Continue to target first responder service workers more directly to encourage increased influenza immunization rates (e.g. provide influenza immunizations at their facility rather than hosting a clinic at Public Health offices).
- Continue to host future community clinics at the same 7 external sites from the 2014-2015 season, as these clinics experienced high attendance rates.
- Consider hosting a 2015-2016 clinic at the Salvation Army, in Guelph. During the 2013-2014 season attendance at this location was very high.
- Ensure signage is clear at all the clinics, particularly at locations where there are multiple entrances.
- Consider extending community clinic hours to accommodate more individuals.
Disclaimer: Data presented in this report may not be the same as data in subsequent reports, as the 2014-2015 influenza season is ongoing at time of data extraction, and information is constantly being updated in iPHIS.