Fight Flu: Get the Facts

2 12 2010

(courtesy of CDC)

Fewer Than Half of Nurses and other Health Care Workers Get Vaccinated. Influenza is among the most common respiratory illnesses in the United States, infecting millions of people every flu season. Studies going back 30 years to 1976 show that seasonal flu-related deaths have ranged from about 3,000 people to more than  48,000 people. While every flu season differs, people die from flu every year. Since health care workers are on the front line to care for patients with the flu, you are more vulnerable to get sick and spread flu to your patients, colleagues, and family members.

Flu transmission from patients to health care workers, and from health care workers to their families, other patients, and staff members is well documented.1-4   Vaccination remains the single most effective preventive measure available against influenza and can prevent serious illness and death. High rates of vaccination among nurses and health care workers have been linked to improved patient outcomes5, 6, reduced absenteeism7, and influenza infection among staff.  Despite the documented benefits of flu vaccination of nurses and other health care workers, fewer than half of health care professionals receive an influenza vaccine each year. This low coverage jeopardizes the health of high-risk patients that you, as a nurse or health care worker, care for every day.  Influenza outbreaks have been documented in hospital wards, nursing home facilities, intensive care units, and bone marrow transplant units.  Protect yourself, your family, and your patients—get a flu vaccine.

FLU FACTS

FACT:  You cannot get the flu from the influenza vaccine. The flu shot does not contain live viruses, so it is impossible to get influenza from the vaccine, and the nasal spray contains virus strains that are too weakened to cause flu illness. Side effects may occur in some people who get vaccinated, such as mild soreness, redness or swelling at the injection site, headache or low-grade fever.  It can take up to two weeks from the time the vaccine is administered to provide immunity against flu. So, during the two weeks after vaccination, people can remain susceptible to influenza infection.  And, while the influenza vaccine does not prevent all influenza illnesses, the vaccine is generally 70-90% effective in adults younger than 65 years of age.

FACT:  Influenza is more than just a nuisance.  Influenza can be a serious and sometimes life-threatening disease. Influenza and its related complications can cause hospitalization and even death.

FACTThe influenza virus is unpredictable.  Flu viruses are constantly changing.  Therefore, a new flu vaccine is made every year to protect against the flu viruses that surveillance indicates will be most common. Because of this, it’s necessary to get a flu vaccination every year, even if you’ve had one or more in the past. The 2010-11 seasonal flu vaccine protects against three viruses, including the H1N1 virus that caused so much illness last season. Read the rest of this entry »