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October 15, 2013

Health-care providers take steps to fight flu

(Continued)

This year, more than 1,600 people received the vaccine during the one-day clinic, and the shots remain available for those who have not yet been vaccinated.

“We’ve always believed this is an effective safety measure for our patients,” said Erica Wood, infection-prevention manager for the hospital. “This year, we have adopted the new policy (of requiring staff members to wear masks if they have not received the vaccine).”

That policy will be initiated on Oct. 31, Wood noted.

Nationwide, fewer than half of all health-care workers are vaccinated against the flu. Although both the Clinton County Health Department and CVPH respect the wishes of those workers who choose not to be vaccinated, Swiesz and Wood both acknowledged the benefits of increased vaccinations.

Another factor to consider at health-care settings is the arrival of visitors and family members. If people are not feeling well, they should not visit a health-care facility, and if there’s any suspicion that a visitor may be coming down with something, masks are usually available at the entrance of facilities.

“The new requirement is meant to protect us (providers) as well,” Sweiz said of patients who may come into the health-care setting not knowing they have the influenza virus.

“People often mistake the cold for the flu, but there is a major difference between the two,” Wood said. “When you’ve got the flu, you know it. You’re sick for several days; your whole body feels like it’s getting beaten up.”

Even still, people can carry and spread the virus before they actually come down with symptoms, she added.

Hospital staff members are required to wear protective masks in areas of the facility where infection is a high priority, but on Oct. 31, providers who have not been vaccinated against the flu will be required to wear masks whenever working with patients.

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