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Majority of seniors want LTC and nursing home staff inoculated against flu, poll finds

BY Michael Johnsen

As flu season swings into high gear, a new poll suggests that nursing homes and other long-term care facilities should be doing more to get their staff and patients vaccinated before it's too late. Nearly three-quarters of people over age 50 surveyed in a new poll say that all staff in such facilities should definitely be required to get the flu vaccine. More than 60% also say that all patients in nursing homes and assisted living should definitely get vaccinated too.

"Flu and pneumonia are a critical health concern, and in recent years have resulted in over 50,000 deaths annually, making it the 8th leading cause of death just behind diabetes," noted Alison Bryant, senior vice president of research for AARP. "Over 80% of these deaths were among older adults ages 65 and older. Increasing vaccination rates to increase herd immunity is imperative to the health and lives of our most vulnerable."

[quote-from-article] "We've finally gotten to the point in the last few years where most inpatient hospitals require their staff to get vaccinated against the flu, or at least strongly promote it," stated Preeti Malani, the director of the poll and a professor of internal medicine at the U-M Medical School who specializes in infectious diseases and geriatrics. "These results suggest that other types of care facilities should do the same to protect vulnerable patients – or potentially risk losing business. I encourage everyone to ask nursing homes and other long-term care facilities about their vaccination policies."

In fact, poll respondents felt so strongly about flu vaccination that 70% said that if they found out that one-third of a nursing home's staff wasn't vaccinated, they would be less likely to choose it for themselves or loved ones.

The new results, from the National Poll on Healthy Aging, come at a time when nursing homes and assisted living facilities lag behind hospitals and other healthcare settings in the rate of flu vaccination among staff.

The poll was conducted in a nationally representative sample of 2,007 Americans between the ages of 50 and 80 by the University of Michigan Institute for Healthcare Policy and Innovation. It was sponsored by AARP and Michigan Medicine, U-M's academic medical center.

It's up to nursing homes and other long-term care facilities to disclose to their patients, visitors and prospective patients what their flu vaccination policies and practices are. But the new poll asked respondents to react to a hypothetical scenario in which a nursing home had a vaccination rate about the current national average.

As many as 40% of poll respondents said if they found out that 1 in 3 staff at a particular nursing home weren't vaccinated against the flu, it would make them much less likely to choose that facility. Another 30% said this knowledge would make them slightly less likely to choose it.

Such data about staff vaccination is actually publicly available for some types of facilities, though many people may not know it. In inpatient rehabilitation facilities, 91% of patients and 84% of staff have had theirs, according to the federal site that tracks them. The site for long-term care hospitals shows that 77%  of staff have been vaccinated.

However, the site that tracks nursing home data doesn't yet show nursing home staff flu vaccination rates, though it does show resident flu shot percentages for each facility.

CDC makes a special recommendation that healthcare workers be vaccinated, and offers a special toolkit for long-term care facilities.

In all, 73% of respondents felt that nursing home medical staff should definitely get vaccinated, and 71% felt that non-medical staff should too. An additional 20% of respondents felt that staff should possibly be required to be vaccinated.

The vast majority of respondents also thought that nursing homes should offer the vaccine to staff at work, at no charge, and should require unvaccinated staff to stay home if they get sick. But a lower percentage – 55% – thought that the flu vaccine should be mandatory for staff to keep their jobs. In contrast, many hospitals require staff vaccination but allow some staff to opt out and instead wear masks around patients during flu season.

When it came to nursing home visitors, respondents were less strong in their opinions. Only 25% said visitors should be required to be vaccinated before visiting their loved ones. Another 45% said they possibly should be required to get the vaccine, and 30% believed visitors should not be required to get the vaccine.
 

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Neutrogena to roll out at-home skin analysis tool

BY Gisselle Gaitan

Los Angeles-based Neutrogena has announced plans to showcase their latest development that merges both beauty and technology with the Neutrogena Skin360 app and accompanying SkinScanner powered by FitSkin.

The tool is designed to give users an understanding of their skin’s conditions and needs, while supplying consumers with customized advice to address those issues. Users also will be able to track their skin’s progress over time.

“Shopping for skincare products can be an overwhelming and confusing experience for our consumer because she is uncertain about what her skin really needs,” Sebastien Guillon, global president of beauty of Johnson & Johnson Consumer, said. “Smart and connected technology helps us provide our consumer with personalized analyses and information she needs in real time so she can make decisions that will help her achieve her best skin ever.”

The Johnson & Johnson-owned beauty brand collaborated with FitSkin to develop the tool and mobile app. SkinScanner’s tool will fit over user’s phones and will utilize precision technology to reveal key metrics of skin health that are not available to the naked eye, the company said.

“Delivering new beauty tech solutions to consumers aligns with our mission to enhance people’s lives through technology,” Josh Ghaim, chief technology officer at Johnson & Johnson Consumer, said. “Neutrogena Skin360 and the SkinScanner tool is just one of our experiences shaping everyday health for today and tomorrow.”

The Neutrogena Skin360 app and SkinScanner tool will be available for purchase later this year for $49.99 on the company’s website.

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CDC: 2017/2018 flu season strongest since 2009

BY Michael Johnsen

Steel yourself for a strong cough/cold and flu season. Because before the ball even had a chance to drop in Times Square on Dec. 31, the 2017/2018 flu season is already being touted as the strongest on record since the 2009 H1N1 pandemic. According to data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Friday, 5.8% of patient visits reported through the U.S. Outpatient Influenza-like Illness Surveillance Network were due to influenza-like illness.

That is well above the peak of illness rates recorded for the 2016/2017 season and nearly matches the height of illness rates recorded across the 2014/2015 season. And all indications suggest we haven't seen the peak of this year's season, yet.

According to the CDC, 46 states reported widespread influenza activity. The most frequently identified influenza virus subtype reported by public health laboratories during the week was influenza A(H3N2). In the past, A(H3N2) virus-predominant influenza seasons have been associated with more hospitalizations and deaths in persons aged 65 years and older and young children compared to other age groups. In addition, influenza vaccine effectiveness in general has been lower against A(H3N2) viruses than against influenza A(H1N1) or influenza B viruses.

Last season, vaccine effectiveness against circulating influenza A(H3N2) viruses was estimated to be 32% in the U.S.  CDC expects that VE could be similar this season, should the same A(H3N2) viruses continue to predominate. For this reason, in addition to influenza vaccination for prevention of influenza, the use of antiviral medications for treatment of influenza becomes even more important than usual.

 

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