How doctors must react as flu rates steadily climb

Flu

As part of its ongoing efforts in civic outreach, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention keeps track of a weekly FluView report. While the early part of the year is always seen as a point of significance for flu, there was some noteworthy activity in January/February 2017. Specifically, 37 states had already seen several flu-related deaths thus far into the year.

The American Academy of Family Physicians noted that this is especially widespread proliferation in terms of the flu, and thus merits extra attention from physicians.

As the flu continues to spread across the U.S., it is important doctors take steps to better support patients.

Stay up-to-date with research efforts

Medicine is always changing, and that's why so many doctors make it a point to stay in the loop with the latest research and developments. This is true for the flu, even despite perceptions that such a basic malady isn't worth further exploration. In the last few months alone, there have been a number of exciting flu-related research efforts.

That lengthy list includes a study in PLOS One about mandates for flu vaccinations, a flu detector developed by a team from the University of Texas (via Digital Trends) and another study, this one released in the Journal of Clinical Virology, about how cold weather may cause the flu. This research is vital for doctors to better address the flu and inform patients.

"A large percentage of high-risk adults never seek treatment for flu symptoms."

Help patients understand the flu's impact

According to an April 2014 study in the Journal of Infectious Diseases, a large percentage of high-risk adults never seek treatment for flu symptoms. In fact, only 45 percent of adults get the medical treatment they need, compared to 57 percent of children. As an extension of this, many adults don't feel as if they need to get flu shots. In fact, per a November 2015 survey by NPR and Truven Health Analytics, 38 percent of adults hadn't been vaccinated in the year prior.

Writing for The Week in December 2015, Dr. Suzanne Koven noted that there are several reasons people opt out of immunizations. For some it's a lack of understanding about germs, while others don't think the vaccine works (despite overwhelming evidence per the CDC). As physicians, it's your job to speak to patients, especially those who are at high risk, and help them understand the value of treatment, the possible consequences and what role immunizations play in their personal health.

Take the time for personal healthcare

It's not just patients that decide to forego immunizations or early treatment for flu symptoms. As Livee Science reported, there have been a handful of studies outlining that doctors either don't get immunized or often go to work while sick. Speaking with ABC News, Dr. William Schaffner explained that if doctors don't take care of themselves, they can't effectively treat or educate patients about the flu.

That's why doctors, nurses and other medical professionals must take care of themselves - not only because it sends the proper message to patients but because it plays a role in impeding the spread of the flu itself. Treatment for the flu should happen at all levels, and if we want to prevent deaths and other accompanying issues, then those in and out of healthcare must work together.