With the flu season in full swing and as intense as it's been in years, BLAC sat down with The Wellness Plan Medical Centers' chief medical officer Dr. Tiffany Sanford to discuss the ins and outs.
Dr. Tiffany Sanford is chief medical officer at The Wellness Plan Medical Centers, which serves patients who traditionally face barriers to health care in Metro Detroit, including the uninsured and underinsured. As the organization’s lead medical practitioner, Sanford oversees TWP’s wide array of services, including pediatrics, adult/senior medicine, preventative care, dental, pharmacy, psychiatric and behavioral health services, obstetrics and gynecology services, cardiology and nutritional consultations.
BLAC: It seems as though the flu is hitting families in Metro Detroit harder than ever this year. Is that what you’re finding?
Sanford: According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, this year’s hospitalization rate for influenza is higher than that of the 2014-2015 season-the most severe season in recent years. We’re certainly finding an uptick in cases of the flu amongst our patients. The issue extends far beyond missing a couple days of school and feeling out of sorts – it can be fatal. For that reason, The Wellness Plan is encouraging the community to take extra precautions while the flu season is still in full swing.
B: Are you finding that families understand how to prevent the spread of the flu?
S: At TWP, we find that many of our patients don’t have access to the resources and information they need to prevent illnesses like the flu. A large part of our role as a community health center is providing education to patients about simple steps they can take to stay healthy. We also offer the support services many families need to get access to care.
B: What recommendations do you have for families to prevent the flu?
S: First and foremost-get the flu shot. It seems obvious, but it’s the single best step you can take to prevent the flu, and it’s not too late. A study published in 2017 (by the American Academy of Pediatrics) showed the flu vaccination significantly reduced children’s risk of dying from influenza. However, the CDC recommends NOT to use the nasal spray flu vaccine (LAIV) for the 2017-2018 season. Families should stick to the injectable flu shots only.
B: What other tips are important for families to keep in mind?
S: Stay away from those who are sick, disinfect surfaces regularly and wash your hands often. If soap and water are unavailable, use an alcohol-based rub to clean your hands. Practice good health habits by getting plenty of sleep, keeping up with fluids, exercising regularly and eating nutritious foods.
B: What should you do if you get the flu?
S: If you do get the flu, it’s critical to stay home from work or school to prevent spreading the disease to others. Children, the elderly and pregnant women are particularly vulnerable.
B: How does the flu impact the African American community, in particular?
S: African-Americans are less likely to get the flu shot-at a rate of just 37 percent compared to 46 percent of white Americans (according to the CDC). This can be attributed to a variety of factors, including barriers to health care. Those same barriers to care make it all the more important to prevent the flu before it takes hold.
B: What else should the community be aware of when it comes to the flu?
S: Viruses are ever-changing. Even if you don’t usually get the flu, it’s important to take part in preventative measures and treatment, keeping yourself and those around you healthy this year.
To learn more, or to visit The Wellness Plan Medical Centers for a flu shot, visit www.wellplan.com.