Vaccinations urged for all employees
Norfolk, VA – August 27, 2009 – Sentara Healthcare is preparing for the onset of seasonal flu and the novel H1N1 flu virus by beginning its employee vaccination program a month earlier than usual. Health officials predict an early onset of seasonal flu this year.
“We want to ensure that our employees and patients are protected from flu exposure,” says Gary Yates, M.D., Chief Medical Officer for Sentara Healthcare. “We don't want our employees to get sick, miss work or expose their families, and we especially don't want them to be sick and risk giving the flu to patients.”
Seasonal flu vaccinations begin August 31 for employees at Sentara Life Care facilities, which include nursing homes and assisted living villages and senior day programs.
Subsequent vaccinations will focus first on clinical employees in the highest-risk operations, including nurseries, neo-natal intensive care units, critical care units, labor and delivery units, and emergency departments. Eventually, all Sentara employees will be urged to receive vaccines for both the seasonal and H1N1 flu strains.
The H1N1 vaccine is not expected to be available until mid-October as clinical trials are continuing. H1N1 vaccine will be a phased distribution beginning with the highest-risk populations, including healthcare workers. Those identified by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as being at highest risk for both types of flu and encouraged to receive vaccines include:
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 will require two injections 21 to 28 days apart. Health department officials suggest taking seasonal flu vaccines as early as possible, given the potential for an early start to the flu season this year.
Universal Respiratory Etiquette protects from flu
In addition to receiving flu vaccines, the most important thing people can do to protect themselves from 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 to avoid getting germs on your hands.
Stay home if you get sick.
Limit contact with others, including family members.