Leading the Fight Against Flu

In 2009, the H1N1 influenza virus significantly changed the way most healthcare workers in the United States think about the flu. Collectively, we learned once again that the influenza virus is an unpredictable and serious threat to our patients’ health and well-being. Every year, influenza sickens 5% to 20% of all Americans, sending about 200,000 people to the hospital. What’s worse is that thousands die from the flu each year. The best means to prevent influenza illness is vaccination. This flu season, the Department of Health and Human Services is recommending seasonal influenza vaccination for everyone 6 months of age and older. Moreover, the CDC and the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices continue to recommend that immunization programs focus initially on providing protection for people at greater risk for influenza-related complications, including: Pregnant women. Children younger than 5, but especially children younger than 2. Adults aged 65 and older. People with chronic medical conditions (eg, asthma, diabetes, or heart disease) associated with greater risk for medical complications from influenza. People working in healthcare settings are also among those at high-risk of getting and spreading influenza, often to vulnerable populations. Lead By Example Healthcare workers can serve as role models for vaccination because they can provide vaccines and set an example by getting vaccinated themselves. Research continues to show that the flu can spread rapidly throughout healthcare settings if proper precautions aren’t taken. Vaccination of healthcare workers reduces influenza infection and absenteeism, prevents mortality in other patients, and results in financial savings to sponsoring health institutions. However, influenza vaccination coverage among healthcare workers in the U.S. remains low. Recent mid-season estimates suggest...