It is October, and depending on where you are, there may be a chill in the air and sniffles everywhere! In fact, many states have already reported positive influenza cases which follows the typical outbreak pattern. Influenza cases typically peak between the months of December through February. The time is now to prepare your facility, workers, and patients.
The spread of influenza occurs in one of two methods:
Close contact, which is described as 6 feet or less, with an infected person who coughs or sneezes. The large particles they release travel through the air and are either inhaled or come into contact with the mucous membranes of the susceptible individual.
Touching a contaminated surface. The virus is transferred from the hands to the nose or mouth by touch.
The seriousness of influenza was described in a September 2017 letter to healthcare providers from the CDC: “Your role in this effort is critical because influenza takes a considerable toll on the public’s health each year, causing millions of illnesses and medical visits, hundreds of thousands of hospitalizations and thousands of death.”
There are many different strategies which, when applied consistently, reduce the risk of respiratory infections.
Flu vaccinations are the first line of defense and should begin no later than the end of October. The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) and the CDC continue to recommend annual injectable influenza vaccination for everyone 6 months and older, including pregnant women. Healthcare workers are at a higher risk of exposure to respiratory infection; therefore, it is recommended that employers strongly support the administration of influenza vaccine to all workers.
Cover Your Cough Posters
Stop the spread of germs that can make you and others sick! These posters, available in different languages, are easy to understand and should be posted in prominent patient care areas. In addition to influenza, other illnesses, including whooping cough and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), are spread through respiratory secretions. Remember that “covering your cough” applies to patients, their family members, visitors, as well as workers!
According to the CDC the following additional measures will also reduce the spread of respiratory infections:
Try to avoid close contact with sick people.
While sick, limit contact with others as much as possible to keep from infecting them.
If you are sick with flu-like illness, stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone except to get medical care or for other necessities. (Your fever should be gone for 24 hours without the use of a fever-reducing medicine.)
Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.
Wash your hands often with soap and water. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.
Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. Germs spread this way.
Clean and disinfect surfaces and objects that may be contaminated with germs like the flu.
Finally, if you do get influenza, take antiviral medications as prescribed. These medications, which are best started within two days of becoming ill, may reduce the overall seriousness and length of your illness. They may also reduce the risk of serious complications such as pneumonia.