Each year, between five and twenty percent of the population gets the flu, and over 200,000 people are hospitalized with severe flu symptoms. Symptoms of the flu include fever, dry cough, extreme tiredness, muscle aches, nausea, and vomiting. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommends receiving an annual flu vaccination as the best way to safeguard against the more severe manifestations of the flu. However, the flu virus is in a constant state of evolution. Drug manufacturers begin production of a vaccine approximately four to six months before the flu season begins; a veritable guessing game based on which strain of the virus was most prevalent the previous season. The CDC announced that this year’s vaccine may not be particularly effective against the most active strain of the flu seen thus far, and that this year’s flu is hovering at the epidemic threshold. Susan Cerniglia with Michigan’s Washtenaw County Public Health Department said that they have seen an abnormal amount of flu cases this winter, stating, “We have really record numbers of hospitalizations so far this season — we have 214 as of Jan. 2…about double of what we would expect to see in a typical flu season.” The CDC stresses that it is still important to get a flu shot, “We are recommending strongly still that people who haven’t been vaccinated get vaccinated. Every year vaccine is the best way to protect yourself against the flu.” While the vaccine does not offer 100% protection against the most active strain, the vaccine still protects against other strains and offers “cross protection.” Cross protection can reduce the chance that you experience severe symptoms, hospitalization, or death from the illness. While there is no way to accurately predict how many flu cases there will be, healthcare organizations can look to past flu seasons to help formulate a staffing plan. With this season’s vaccine proving less effective than previous years, healthcare organizations can assume they will see a greater number of flu patients. Healthcare organizations should take further staffing precautions to ensure they are prepared to meet their patients’ needs. Locum tenens is an excellent option for healthcare organizations with seasonal staffing needs as staffing levels can be adjusted quickly and efficiently without imposing unnecessary strain on existing staff. Many top healthcare organizations have established relationships with locum tenens companies so they can bring on additional physicians, physician assistants, and nurse practitioners when unforeseen staffing needs arise. Having a plan in place to appropriately address community healthcare needs reduces patient wait times, alleviates overextending current staff, and reduces the risk of medical errors. For more information on how locum tenens can help your organization this flu season, please visit our Hospitals, Practices, and Companies page.