Archive for: Pandemic Influenza

Study: Google accurately tracks flu trends

By: January 11th, 2012 Email This Post Print This Post

What can’t Google do?

A study appearing in January 8 issue of Clinical Infectious Diseases has good things to say about Google Flu Trends (GFT).

Google’s internet surveillance system uses queries on search engines to estimate influenza activity in near real time.

GFT shows strong correlation, especially at the city level, with number of flu cases and emergency department visits for influenza-like-illnesses, according to the study. This makes it a valid surveillance tool, the study added.

CDC posts healthcare prevention strategies for H3N2 flu

By: January 3rd, 2012 Email This Post Print This Post

The CDC posted infection prevention strategies for healthcare settings for a seasonal flu variant on December 23.

Influenza A(H3N2) variant [A(H3N2)v] is a virus containing genes from human, avian and swine origins, and has been detected in 12 persons since July 2011, according to Prevention Strategies for Seasonal and Influenza A(H3N2)v in Health Care Settings.

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Feds asking for healthcare worker flu shot advice

By: December 21st, 2011 Email This Post Print This Post

The US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is asking for comments on a draft guidance for achieving a 90% influenza immunization rate for healthcare workers by 2020.

The guidance document is from the National Vaccine Advisory Committee (NVAC), and the request for comments appeared in the Federal Register, December 19.

In brief, the five recommendations for healthcare employers (HCE) are:

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Making the case for nurses getting flu shots

By: December 20th, 2011 Email This Post Print This Post

A free, five-minute video makes a compelling case for nurses to receive the influenza vaccination.

The Immunization Action Coalition has selected “Nurse-to-Nurse Influenza Vaccine Safety Video” as its video of the week.

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Joint Commission offers presentation on revised staff and practitioner flu shot standard

By: December 9th, 2011 Email This Post Print This Post

In case you hadn’t noticed, The Joint Commission (TJC) revised the infection control standard for influenza vaccinations for staff and independent practitioners in accredited hospitals, critical access hospitals and long-term care facilities. If you are not sure about the specifics of the revision, I suggest you spend 30 minutes viewing TJC’s online presentation.

Standard IC.02.04.01 Influenza Vaccination for Licensed Independent Practitioners and Staff for CAH, HAP, and LTC Accreditation Programs covers the rationale for the revision and the specific requirements of the standard, including the nine elements of performance.

TJC has had an influenza vaccination standard since 2006 and approved the revised Standard IC.02.04.01 September 21, 2011.

The rational being:

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Study: Respirator and mask misuse exposed workers to H1N1

By: December 8th, 2011 Email This Post Print This Post

Early in the 2009 H1N1 pandemic, the absence of or improper use of respirators and masks likely caused healthcare worker exposures, according to study appearing in the December issue  of Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology.

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More healthcare workers receiving flu shots

By: December 6th, 2011 Email This Post Print This Post

It’s so far, so good for flu immunizations and healthcare workers this year.

As part of National Influenza Vaccination Week, the CDC released, on December 5,  data from an internet panel survey showing that 63% of healthcare workers have received flu shots by mid- November, an increase of 7% compared to last year.

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Vital stats: Hollywood and healthcare hazards

By: December 6th, 2011 Email This Post Print This Post

The film “Contagion,” released this fall and still showing in theaters, addresses the devastation caused by a pandemic. OSHA Healthcare Advisor asked readers whether the movie would affect how healthcare do their jobs.

Most respondents thought that raising awareness, even through Hollywood hype, was a good thing.

Here are the results:

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Weekly poll: Following flu shot and mask wearing recommendations

By: December 5th, 2011 Email This Post Print This Post

The “Requiring masks for healthcare workers” excerpt drew some spirited comments from readers. How closely does your facility follow the American Hospital Association’s recommendations that require either influenza vaccination or wearing a mask in the presence of patients across healthcare settings during flu season for healthcare workers? Take our OSHA Healthcare Advisor Weekly Poll and let us know.

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National Influenza Vaccination Week, Dec. 4-12

By: November 29th, 2011 Email This Post Print This Post

National Influenza Vaccination Week (NIVW), an observance that highlights the importance of continuing vaccinations during and after the holiday season, is scheduled for December 4-12.

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Requiring masks for healthcare workers

By: November 22nd, 2011 Email This Post Print This Post

The feature article in the November issue of Briefings on Infection Control looks at AHA’s mandatory flu shot policy that requires either influenza vaccination or wearing a mask in the presence of patients across healthcare settings during flu season for healthcare workers. Here is an excerpt of the article that examines considerations such as comfort, enforcement, and communication with patients for choosing to wear a flu mask as alternative to immunization.

Healthcare workers either need to get an influenza vac­cination or wear a mask when working with patients during flu season, according to a new American Hospital Association (AHA) policy.

That’s a necessary step to protect the safety of patients, says Nancy Foster, AHA’s vice president of quality and ­patient safety.

While a flu shot is preferable, wearing a mask is a way to minimize the transmission of droplets that can cause ­influenza, she says.

An uncomfortable option
But is mask-wearing practical?

“I won’t say it’s the most comfortable option. But the risk to patients is too great [not to require it],” Foster says.

Hospitals often start vaccinating workers with flu vaccine in September, and flu season can run as late as through April.

“You’re looking at months of wearing a mask,” says Libby Chinnes, RN, BSN, CIC, an independent infection control consultant with IC Solutions, LLC, based in Mt. Pleasant, SC.

The requirement to wear a mask may be an incentive for some healthcare workers to get a flu vaccination, Chinnes says. “If you wear a mask for very long, it gets hot and uncomfortable,” she says.

Enforcement a challenge
If hospitals are going to require masks for healthcare workers who decline the flu vaccine, they need to make that part of their policy, Chinnes says.

The hard part will be enforcement, she says, since workers may need to wear a mask for five or six months.

“Masking is a hassle for employees and can be problematic for hospitals to enforce,” says Deborah L. Wexler, MD, executive director of the ­Immunization Action Coalition in Saint Paul, MN.

Monitoring healthcare workers who must wear a mask because they haven’t had a flu shot is a challenge, agrees Peggy Prinz Luebbert, MS, MS(ASCP), CIC, CHSP, a consultant and owner of ­Healthcare ­Interventions in ­Omaha, NE, who works with healthcare ­organizations across the country.

Luebbert has worked with a couple of hospitals that have required masks and it does provide some motivation for workers to get a flu shot.

Healthcare workers are required to wear a mask as soon as they enter the facility, from October 1 to March 1, she says.

The healthcare workers are required to indicate on their identification badge whether they have had a flu vaccination or must wear a mask, she says. For instance, a blue dot indicates the worker has had a flu shot, while a red dot indicates they have not had it.

Luebbert admits it is like wearing a scarlet letter for those who don’t get a flu shot.

The masks themselves are “awful,” she says. “The employees hate it. It’s uncomfortable and the patients can’t see your face. And the patients hate it because they can’t see the worker’s expression.”

It must be the responsibility of the employee’s manager to monitor workers to ensure they are wearing their mask, Luebbert says. Infection preventionists cannot be everywhere in a hospital to monitor all workers.

Communicate with patients
Hospitals should be prepared for questions from patients and family members who may wonder why a worker is wearing a mask when providing care, says Chinnes.

“I think hospitals should come up with some kind of script so a healthcare worker can say, ‘This is why I’m wearing a mask,’ ” she says. Hospitals don’t want patients to think they are allowing a worker who is sick to take care of them.

Luebbert agrees that hospitals need to communicate to patients and family members why workers are wearing a mask. One hospital put up a poster in its lobby advising people that both visitors and employees who had not been vaccinated against the flu must wear a mask during flu season, she says.

Briefings on Infection Control subscribers can read more from the November issue by clicking here.

Survey measures prevalence of mandatory flu shots policies

By: November 7th, 2011 Email This Post Print This Post

More than half the hospitals in the U.S. have some sort of institutional requirement for flu shots among staff members.

A study, Institutional Requirements for Influenza Vaccination of Healthcare Personnel: Results From a Nationally Representative Survey of Acute Care Hospitals—United States, 2011, appearing in the December issue of Clinical Infectious Diseases, surveyed 998 acute care hospitals. For the purpose of the survey, an institutional requirement was defined as “a policy that requires HCP to receive or decline influenza vaccination, with or without consequences for vaccine refusal.”

Of the respondents, 55.6% reported having institutional requirements for worker vaccination. Although employees were uniformly subject to requirements, non employees often were not. Less than half, 44.4%, of facilities had requirements with consequences for vaccine refusal.

Of respondents citing consequences, wearing a mask was the most common, 74.2%. Termination for unvaccinated workers was cited by 14.4% of the facilities.

“Influenza vaccination requirements were prevalent among hospitals of varying size and location. However, few policies were as stringent or as comprehensive as those endorsed by health professional organization.” the study concluded.

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