The 2017-2018 Influenza Season: Lessons Learned
Christopher Chao, MD, Joseph Toscano, MD, and Cameron R. Wolfe, MBBS, MPH
Dr Chao is a family practice specialist with the University of North Carolina (UNC) REX Hospital in Raleigh, North Carolina, and treats patients at REX Express Care in Cary, North Carolina. He is a member of the College of Urgent Care Medicine’s board of directors.
Dr Toscano is Chief, Emergency Medicine, and a staff physician at San Ramon Regional Medical Center in San Ramon, California; Clinical Content Coordinator, Urgent Care Association; and a member of the board of directors of the College of Urgent Care Medicine.
Dr Wolfe is Associate Professor of Medicine in the Division of Infectious Diseases, Department of Medicine, at Duke University Medical Center in Durham, North Carolina.
As this article is being written, the potential impact of the current 2018-2019 influenza season remains a question mark. But statistics show that the story of the last flu season (2017-2018) is best punctuated with three exclamation points: one for its duration, one for its severity, and one for the challenges it posed to the entire healthcare system, including—perhaps especially—urgent care centers.
This article briefly reviews the unique features of the last influenza season and explores the lessons learned from those challenges that urgent care clinicians can apply as they prepare to treat this season’s flu patients.
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In support of improving patient care, this activity has been planned and implemented by the Postgraduate Institute for Medicine and Global Academy for Medical Education. Postgraduate Institute for Medicine is jointly accredited by the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education (ACCME), the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education (ACPE), and the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) to provide continuing education for the healthcare team.
Physician Continuing Medical Education
The Postgraduate Institute for Medicine designates this enduring material for a maximum of 1.5 AMA PRA Category 1 Credit(s)TM. Physicians should claim only the credit commensurate with the extent of their participation in the activity.
Continuing Nursing Education
The maximum number of hours awarded for this Continuing Nursing Education activity is 1.5 contact hours.
Christopher P. Chao, MD
Staff Physician, UNC REX Healthcare, Raleigh, North Carolina
Cameron R. Wolfe, MBBS, MPH
Associate Professor of Medicine Duke University Medical Center Durham, North Carolina
Joseph D. Toscano, MD
Clinical Content Coordinator, Urgent Care Association Chief Emergency Medicine and Staff Physician San Ramon Regional Medical Center San Ramon, California
Dr Chao reports nothing to disclose.
Dr Toscano discloses that he is a member of the speakers bureau for Reckitt Benckiser.
Wolfe discloses that he is a member of the drug safety monitoring boards for Ansun, GlaxoSmithKline, Janssen, and Visterra.
Healthcare providers in urgent care centers, including family practice physicians, emergency physicians, and other licensed healthcare professionals (physician assistants, nurse practitioners, radiology technicians, registered nurses).
The 2017-2018 influenza season in the United States was the deadliest in 4 decades, resulting in at least 80,000 deaths. Factors contributing to the problem include lower- than-optimal vaccination rates, especially among vulnerable populations (children and older adults); the relative lack of efficacy (~36%) of the available vaccine; and the emergence of resistance to antiviral treatments. At the peak of the season, flu accounted for more than 7% of all outpatient visits to emergency departments and urgent care centers. Clinicians who practice in an urgent care setting are on the frontlines of influenza prevention and treatment. These providers would benefit from education that illustrates best practices for managing influenza in a timely and efficient manner. Guidance is needed about strategies for preventing flu outbreaks in the household and the community; appropriate use of antiviral therapies; and awareness of current and emerging drugs that could significantly affect the approach to managing influenza in the urgent care setting.
At the conclusion of this program, participants should be better able to:
- Recognize the impact of the 2017-2018 influenza season on the delivery of urgent care.
- Review the mechanisms of action of available and emerging influenza treatments and determine their roles in therapy for appropriately selected patients.
- Design optimal strategies for preventing and treating influenza infection in the urgent care setting.
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