By Karen Barrett, RN, COHN-S
Director of Employee Health
Methodist Health System
Mary A. Fulton, RN, BSN, CIC
Infection Prevention Practitioner
Methodist Charlton Medical Center
It’s fall! That means cooler temperatures, the State Fair of Texas is in full swing, and it’s time for the annual pilgrimage to get your flu vaccination.
Why is fall the season for flu? There are several factors. The arrival of cold weather tends to keep us indoors. Breathing recirculated air is an ideal environment for germs, which challenges our respiratory system. When kids go back to school, they carry germs to and from their homes, accounting for the higher number of sick children both before and after the holidays. What’s more, traveling to visit family during the holidays may also mean new virus strains are transported to different geographic regions. All together, this creates the perfect flu storm.
Throughout the year, epidemiologists closely watch the disease patterns in Asia, knowing that the strains of flu that appear there will eventually make their way to the U.S. With this insight, they work in tandem with pharmaceutical companies to produce the annual supply of flu vaccine. For instance, remember the 2009 H1N1 pandemic outbreak? This year’s flu vaccine includes the new H3N2 strain, but in July 2012, there have been outbreaks of H3N2 variant viruses.
The best way to protect yourself and your family from developing the flu is to get a flu shot. It’s that simple. We strongly encourage everyone to get the vaccination. In fact, we think it is so important that we’ve developed a new vaccination policy at Methodist Health System that makes flu vaccination mandatory for our staff and volunteers unless they obtain a medical or religious exemption.
Why? Statistics tell the story. More than 226,000 annual hospitalizations are attributed to the flu and flu-related complications. Even more startling, approximately 36,000 people die annually from the flu and flu-related illnesses. Those at highest risk to develop the flu include pregnant women, the elderly, infants, and individuals with compromised immune systems.
In addition to the vaccination, health care employees and volunteers should remember these tips on how to avoid getting the flu:
- Wear masks when caring for coughing patients.
- Wash your hands and follow the hand-washing protocol closely. Hand washing before and after caring for a patient can prevent the spread of the flu virus.
- Stay away from crowds as much as possible during flu season.
- Educate patients and their families about the importance of covering their mouth when they cough or sneeze and washing their hands. Studies show if everyone did these two simple things, it would drastically reduce the spread and incidence of the flu.
- Stay home when you’re sick. If you experience these symptoms — cough, fever, runny nose, sore throat, aches and pains, and general malaise — chances are good you have the flu.
Ready to give your career a shot in the arm? Then it’s time to choose Methodist Health System. Learn more by visiting Jobs.MethodistHealthSystem.org.
© Methodist Health System