Caused by influenza viruses, flu or Influenza is an infectious respiratory illness (that can cause mild to severe illness) and even result in hospitalization or death. The best way to prevent flu is by getting vaccinated each year. However, not everyone is aware of the importance of this vaccination or some might think flu vaccine is only needed for the holiday season. To highlight the importance of influenza vaccination through the holiday season and beyond, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), established an annual observance, National Influenza Vaccination Week (NIVW). Sponsored by CDC, this year the week-long observance is scheduled for December 1-7, 2019 in the United States. While vaccination is recommended before the end of October because generally the flu season hits the highest points between December and February, getting vaccinated later can still be beneficial for people who have put it off. It is also time for companies that provide medical billing services and coding staff at hospitals and clinics to stay up-to-date with the latest coding updates to document flu accurately.

NIVW reminds public health practitioners, healthcare providers, and families that it’s not too late for everyone 6 months and older to get a flu vaccine. It’s also not a must that people should get vaccinated before October. According to CDC, previous flu vaccination coverage data have shown that few people get vaccinated against influenza by the end of November. As long as flu viruses are spreading and causing illness, vaccination should continue throughout the flu season in order to protect as many people as possible against flu. That is, even if you have already gotten sick with flu, you can still benefit from the vaccination since many different flu viruses spread during the flu season and the vaccine protects against four different flu viruses- types A, B, C, and D. Often the most frequently identified sub type of flu reported is influenza A. Along with taking vaccines, other steps that are recommended to stay healthy include washing your hands well and often, staying at home when sick, covering your nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing, and wiping down counters, desks, tables and other surfaces with disinfectant.

Without proper preventive steps, flu can make you hospitalized and also result in life-threatening illnesses like pneumonia or even death. With Weekly U.S. Influenza Surveillance Report, CDC has provided Preliminary Burden Estimates of 2018-2019, that notes 37.4 million – 42.9 million flu illnesses, 17.3 million – 20.1 million flu medical visits, 531,000 – 647,000 flu hospitalizations and 36,400 – 61,200 flu deaths. However, there can be changes, because, these estimates are preliminary and will be updated over the course of the flu season.

Initially, the flu may seem like a common cold with a runny nose, sneezing and sore throat along with fatigue and weakness. Other common signs and symptoms include – chills and sweats, headache, aching muscles, nasal congestion, dry, persistent cough and fever over 100.4 F (38 C). However, as the immune system gets weaker (due to aging) – adults aged 65 years and older have a higher risk of suffering serious complications from the flu, such as pneumonia and hospitalization. CDC estimates that about 70 – 85 percent of seasonal flu-related deaths in the United States have occurred among people 65 years and older.

Comprehensive documentation is important to provide the right treatments for patients. Medical billing services provided by reputable medical billing companies can help physicians use the correct codes for their medical billing purposes.

Using the right ICD-10 codes for influenza is necessary to demonstrate the severity of the patient’s illness.

ICD-10 Codes used for influenza include:

  • J09: Influenza due to certain identified influenza viruses
    • J09.X: Influenza due to identified novel influenza A virus
  • J10: Influenza due to other identified influenza virus
    • J10.0: Influenza due to other identified influenza virus with pneumonia
    • J10.1: Influenza due to other identified influenza virus with other respiratory manifestations
    • J10.2: Influenza due to other identified influenza virus with gastrointestinal manifestations
    • J10.8: Influenza due to other identified influenza virus with other manifestations
  • J11: Influenza due to unidentified influenza virus
    • J11.0: Influenza due to unidentified influenza virus with pneumonia
    • J11.1: Influenza due to unidentified influenza virus with other respiratory manifestations
    • J11.2: Influenza due to unidentified influenza virus with gastrointestinal manifestations
    • J11.8: Influenza due to unidentified influenza virus with other manifestations

To document the treatment options CPT codes are used. Since influenza viruses change slightly each year, the composition of U.S. Flu vaccines is reviewed and updated annually to match currently circulating virus strains. You can read about CPT vaccine codes for the 2019-2020 flu season and CDC’s recommendations in one of our earlier blogs.

Established in the year 2005 by the CDC, NIVW is meant to raise awareness and advocate for the flu vaccination through the winter season and beyond. However, over the years the week-long campaign has grown into a wider platform, cautioning the public about the symptoms and complications associated with this infectious condition and providing awareness about the treatment options available. As part of the event, CDC has developed a number of complimentary tools and materials for organizations across the US to aid their vaccination efforts during NIVW. CDC has developed free NIVW communication resources such as print material, matte article, animated images, graphics and web tools (in multiple languages) along with other free resources including widgets and mobile apps to educate others about the importance of getting an annual flu vaccine. Tweets and Facebook messages also can play a role in communicating the importance of getting a flu vaccine and to remind everyone that it is not too late to get the vaccine if you haven’t already.

An experienced medical billing company would ensure that their coding professionals stay updated regarding the latest coding guidelines and regulations. This in turn ensures accurate billing of influenza vaccines, which is indispensable for timely and appropriate reimbursement.

Be a part of National Influenza Vaccination Week (NIVW) celebrations and learn more about the benefits of flu vaccination.