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Health Benefit Plan- “Flu”

Jay Nichols

Hello everyone,

I would like to take a moment to thank each and everyone of you for being

members of our NALC Health Benefits Plan. To the new members that

have just enrolled in the plan for 2015, WELCOME! For those that are not

enrolled in our NALC Health Benefits Plan I encourage you to visit the

website (nalchbp.org). The NALC Health Benefits Plan has been in

existence since 1950. It is union-owned and union-operated. A not-for-profit

plan, meaning every dollar coming into the plan is put right back into the

plan to make the plan better for our members and keep cost down.

Please take a few minutes to read a press release from the CDC on Influenza

and keep in mind that under preventive care our plan covers the Influenza

vaccine – one per flu season when we stay In-Network.

 

INFLUENZA 2014 – 2015

CDC Urges Vaccination

Early data suggest that the current 2014-2015 the flu season could be severe.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) urges immediate

vaccination for anyone still unvaccinated this season and recommends

prompt treatment with antiviral drugs for people at high risk of complications

as a result of getting the flu.

So far this year, seasonal influenza A H3N2 viruses have been most common.

There often are more severe flu illnesses, hospitalizations, and deaths during

seasons when these viruses are predominate. For example, H3N2 viruses

were predominant during the 2003-2004, 2007-2008 and 2012-2013 seasons,

the three seasons with the highest mortality levels in the past decade. All

were characterized as “moderately severe”.

“We can save lives with a three-pronged effort to fight the flu: vaccination,

prompt treatment for people at high risk of complications, and preventive

health measures, such as staying home when you’re sick, to reduce flu

spread,” said CDC director Tom Frieden, M.D., M.P.H.

Depending on a formulation, flu vaccines protect against three or four

different flu viruses. Even during a season when the vaccine is only partially

protective against one flu virus, it can protect against the others.

“While the vaccine’s ability to protect against drifted H3N2 viruses this

season may be reduced, we are still strongly recommending vaccination,”

said Joseph Bresee, M.D., Chief of the influenza Epidemiology and

Prevention Branch at CDC. “Vaccination has been found to provide some

protection against drifted viruses in past seasons. Also, vaccination will offer

protection against other flu viruses that may become more common later in

the seasons.”

Influenza viruses are constantly changing. The drifted H3N2 viruses were

first detected in late March 2014, after World Health Organization (WHO)

recommendations for the 2014-2015 Northern Hemisphere vaccine had been

mad in mid-February. At that time, a very small number of these viruses had

been found among the thousands of specimens that had been collected and

tested.

A committee of experts must pick which viruses to include in the vaccine

many month in advance in order for vaccine to be produced and delivered in

time for the upcoming flu season. There is always the possibility that viruses

will drift during that time.

Influenza activity is currently low in the United States as a whole, but is

increasing in parts of the country. “We are just at the beginning of the

season. It’s not too late to get your vaccine,” Dr. Frieden says.

Influenza antiviral drugs – Tamiflu (oseltamivar) and Relenza (zanamivir)

can reduce severe complications such as hospitalization and potentially death

for people who are at high risk of serious flue complications or are very sick.

Treatment of high risk patients should begin as soon after symptoms develop

as possible, without waiting for lab tests to confirm flu infections.

Those at risk from influenza include children younger than 5 years

(especially those younger than 2 years); adults 65 years and older; pregnant

women; and people with certain chronic health conditions such as asthma,

diabetes, heart or lung disease, and kidney disease.

CDC recommends that people at high risk check with their doctor or other

health care professional promptly if they get flu symptoms. Studies show

that flu antiviral drugs work best for treatment when they are started in the

first 48 hours after symptoms appear. Flu symptoms can include fever,

cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headaches, chills and

fatigue.

CDC – PRESS RELEASE – http://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2014/p1204-

flu-season.html