It's National Influenza Vaccine Week, and the nation's healthcare industry is in the heart of another flu season — albeit one that is, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), off to a subdued start.
According to the CDC's latest FluView report, "overall seasonal influenza activity increased slightly in the United States" in the last week of November, but the total activity within this 2015-2016 season "remains low overall."
Nonetheless, the CDC is quick to warn that it "has received reports of early outbreaks in institutions across the country. Most of these outbreaks have been attributed to H3N2 viruses. Flu causes millions of illnesses, hundreds of thousands of hospitalizations and thousands of deaths every season."
So far in the 2015-2016 flu season, more than 140.5 million doses of flu vaccine have been distributed; this season’s vaccines have also "been updated to better match circulating viruses," again according to the CDC, which states that all versions of the 2015-2016 flu season vaccine are designed to work against three flu viruses (two A, one B).
Annual Flu Season Costs in U.S. Exceed $10 Billion
Despite the slow start, the 2015-2016 flu season is also carefully watched for signs of increased usage. The CDC is recommending an annual flu vaccine for everyone six months of age and older, which covers a good section of the population — and the effects of the infusion of larger amounts of insured patients in the healthcare industry due to the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is still being felt.
Of course, it's no secret that the flu season represents a costly time for the healthcare industry. The medical journal Vaccine calculated that annual flu outbreaks cost the American healthcare industry $10.4 billion in direct medical costs and "resulted in an average of 610,660 life-years lost (undiscounted), 3.1 million hospitalized days, and 31.4 million outpatient visits.
"Projected lost earnings due to illness and loss of life amounted to $16.3 billion annually," the authors wrote. "The total economic burden of annual influenza epidemics using projected statistical life values amounted to $87.1 billion."
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