Does it feel like deja-vu all over again? Yes. It is that time of year again, when we beg everyone to willingly take shots.
A Few Facts
Influenza epidemics occur every year and result in an annual average of 36,000 deaths and 200,000 hospitalizations in the United States, mostly among chronically ill patients and seniors, according to the CDC. An influenza pandemic is a global epidemic of an especially virulent virus with the potential for severe morbidity and mortality,. According to the World Health Organization, the next pandemic is likely to result in 1 to 2.3 million hospitalizations and 280,000 to 650,000 deaths in industrialized nations.
We all need a flu shot.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention(CDC), at last count in 2002, only 38% of healthcare workers received flu vaccines. Federal health officials say the rate needs to improve to better control flu transmission in hospitals and other medical settings. Reasons for not taking them range from "The needles hurt." to "I don’t believe in flu shots" to "Every time I take a flu shot I get sick, or I get the flu."
First things first, the flu shot won’t give you the flu, but inoculating HCW can lead to less absenteeism and a reduced risk to workers of receiving the flu from a patient and vice versa. Most flu shots are inactivated flu vaccine containing a non infectious, dead version of the virus that doesn’t cause the flu. Anyone suffering from the illness after a shot likely caught a different strain, but the CDC insists it’s not from the vaccine. The vaccine is not a 100% guarantee that you won’t get the flu, but there will be less severity if you do end up with the flu after a flu shot.
By a Nose
The new nasal sprays contain live attenuated influenza vaccine, or LAIV. They do use a live version of the flu virus which people administer through their nose as a spray or mist. It’s easy to use but should not be used by healthcare workers because of their potential close contact with severely immunosuppressed person and cause disease. If a medical worker chooses to take LAIV, he or she should refrain from contact with severely immunosuppressed patients for seven days.
Vaccine campaigns should begin in October because the season begins this month, peaking in February and continuing through April. For your own sake, as well as the sake of your family and patients, take the flu shot. Encourage others to take their flu shots. Remember how miserable the 2003 season was.
What your facility can do.
• Put posters up throughout the building.
• Send out e-mail alerts
• Conduct random prize drawings for folks who receive the vaccine.
• Present easily available information to offset worker concerns about the vaccine.
• Distribute flu statistics from the CDC like the flu causes 114,000 hospitalizations a year.
• What you can do.
• Remember Standard Precautions and stick to them strictly.
• Add droplet precautions during the care of a patient with suspected or confirmed diagnosis of the flu
• Encourage respiratory hygiene/cough etiquette with visual alerts to remind patients to use tissues to cover their mouths and noses when sneezing or coughing
• Provide tissues for everyone to use when they cough
• Offer masks to people who are coughing
• Encourage visitors and workers not to visit if they are sick
Keys to the Kingdom
Remember that education is the key. If staff is educated and encouraged, they will receive the vaccination they need. If patients, families and visitors are educated they will receive the vaccine and follow sensible precautions. It will take all of us working together to keep our kingdoms safe from the newest nasty bug that will be going around this year.