Flu Season has Started: Tips for Fighting Influenza

Protect your health and the health of your patients with a flu shot – ASAP! Flu seasons are unpredictable – viruses are constantly changing so we never know what will turn out to be a particularly nasty flu season. In addition, flu is inherently unfair to at-risk communities; there are more cases among Hispanic and African American patients, for instance.

Even though the height of the season is January and February, getting vaccinated now (if you haven't already) is still crucial to head it off. By doing so, you help protect yourself, your family, and your patients.

Here are the flu facts, according to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services:

1) At least 20 million Americans are expected to get the flu this year, suffering fever, cough, sore throat, runny and stuffy nose, body aches and headaches, fatigue, and vomiting or diarrhea.

2) The Centers for Disease Control, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), and the Healthcare Infection Control Practices Advisory Committee (HICPAC) all recommend that healthcare workers get flu vaccinations annually

3) Nurses are exposed to patients and coworkers who are sick with the flu, can get infected, and spread it to others before even being aware of being sick.

4) The findings of a recent CDC review of related published literature indicate that influenza vaccination of health care personnel can enhance patient safety.

Sadly, communities with economic disparities or more limited access to healthcare or health communications will suffer disproportionately from influenza.

Hospitals may require all staff – or only certain ones, healthcare personnel who work directly with patients, say – to get the flu vaccine.

You can find out more about vaccination mandates by checking with our state health department.

Also, check out www.flu.gov, a government health website, for details on what you as a healtchare worker can do to protect yourself and others from the flu.