Sentara Prepares for Seasonal & 2009 H1N1 Flu (Sept. 24)
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Sentara Prepares for Seasonal & 2009 H1N1 Flu (Sept. 24) 

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Vaccinations urged for all employees  

Norfolk, VA – September 24, 2009Sentara Healthcare has been preparing for months for what could be a very challenging flu season. Plans involve all aspects of the integrated network, making the most of the organization’s size, diversity, and ability to move materials to best serve the community in times of need.

Following best practices recommended by the Centers for Disease Control for seasonal flu and the novel H1N1 flu, Sentara began its seasonal vaccination program for employees and high-risk patients a month earlier than usual on August 31.

“We want to ensure that our employees and patients are protected from flu,” says Gary Yates, M.D., Chief Medical Officer for Sentara Healthcare.  “We don’t want our employees to get sick, miss work and expose their families and we especially don’t want them to be sick and give the flu to patients and co-workers.”

Currently, all workers in Sentara clinical facilities are being strongly urged to receive the seasonal flu vaccine.  This approach will also apply to 2009 H1N1 flu vaccine when it is available.  Those who refuse will sign a detailed declination form.  Seasonal flu vaccine is available for high-risk patients at Sentara Medical Group practices.

Sentara continues to be a community resource for flu information by providing updated information to its website

The 2009 H1N1 vaccine is expected to be available in October in a phased distribution to the highest-risk populations, including healthcare workers.  Those identified by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) as priority for receiving the H1N1 vaccine include:

  • Healthcare workers.
  • Pregnant women.
  • People who live with or care for children younger than 6 months of age.
  • Persons between the ages of 6 months and 24 years.
  • People 25 to 64 with chronic health disorders or compromised immunity. 

Seasonal flu vaccine involves one injection.  H1N1 vaccine may require two injections 21 to 28 days apart.  Seasonal and H1N1 vaccines may be administered at the same time, usually in separate arms.

Flu precautions

In addition to receiving vaccines, the most important thing people can do to protect themselvesfrom flu is to exercise Universal Respiratory Etiquette at all times.  This includes:

  • Wash your hands frequently with soap and water or alcohol-based sanitizer, especially after sneezing or blowing your nose.
  • Sneeze into your sleeve or cover your mouth and nose with a tissue, then throw it away.
  • Avoid touching eyes, nose or mouth.
  • Stay home if you get sick.
  • Limit contact with others, including family members.

Contingency treatment areas being identified

Should flu cases rise to pandemic levels in the community, Sentara is preparing a contingency plan including dedicated flu treatment centers.  The intent is to provide alternative sites of care for flu when hospital and free-standing emergency departments will be caring for routine medical emergencies and the most severe flu cases.  Should those walk-in sites be activated, we will employ the news media and to notify the public of their locations and hours of operation.

For most cases of flu, medical intervention is not necessary.

The best advice is to:

  • Stay at home.
  • Rest.
  • Drink plenty of fluids.
  • Take an over-the-counter anti-inflammatory to control fever.
  • Limit contact with others, including your family.
  • Flu symptoms usually resolve in about 5 days.
  • If symptoms last longer than 5 days, consult your doctor.
  • Don’t return to work or school until you are fever-free for 24 hours.

 When to seek medical attention for flu

If you or your child suffers any of the following potentially life-threatening symptoms, seek medical care immediately:

  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath.
  • Severe or persistent vomiting.
  • Pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen.
  • Sudden dizziness, confusion.
  • Flu symptoms that improve, then return with fever or cough.
  • Infants: bluish or gray skin, not drinking, not interacting, so irritable they do not want to be held.

Groups at high risk for complications from flu

  • Children younger than 5 years of age.
  • Pregnant women.
  • People 65 and older.
  • People with blood disorders including Sickle Cell Disease.
  • People with chronic health conditions including, CHF, COPD, diabetes, heart disease except for hypertension, liver, kidney, neurological or euromuscular disorders, weakened immune systems.
  • People younger than 19 who receive long-term aspirin therapy due to increased risk for Reye’s Syndrome.


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