During the 2017-2018 flu season, an estimated 48.8 million people became ill with influenza, and 22.7 million sought help from a health care provider, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Overall hospitalization rates for all age groups during the 2017-2018 flu season were the highest ever recorded in the national surveillance system.
In a new advisory, The Joint Commission says that health care workers who usually skip a flu shot need to take a harder look at who they may be harming the most: their patients and co-workers.
Inhaling these droplets is how the flu spreads from person to person; droplets can land on surfaces and spread to others who touch those contaminated surfaces. A person with the flu can be contagious the day before symptoms start and remain contagious for up to seven days.
The CDC, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), and the Healthcare Infection Control Practices Advisory Committee (HICPAC) recommend that all U.S. health care workers get vaccinated annually against influenza. Joint Commission-accredited organizations are required to offer flu vaccinations to all licensed independent practitioners and staff.
It is best to get vaccinated as early as possible, but the vaccine can remain effective if received later in the season. The flu vaccine cannot cause flu illness and has been proven to decrease risk for getting the flu, reduce flu-related hospitalizations, and reduce the risk of flu-related death in children.
The Joint Commission’s Quick Safety advisory calls on health care organizations to help health care workers understand their responsibility to protect themselves and their patients from influenza, as well as support and encourage staff to take precautions to prevent the spread of viruses, including influenza viruses.
Recommended actions for health care workers include:
- Get vaccinated annually.
- Clean hands frequently with soap and water or alcohol-based hand rub to help protect from germs.
- Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth, which are openings for germs to enter the body after touching a contaminated surface.
- Clean and disinfect surfaces frequently.
- Protect others—stay home from work or school if sick or showing flu symptoms.
- Cover mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing, and clean hands with alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water after handling tissue.
Recommended actions for health care organizations include:
- Implementing supportive, non-punitive time-off policies to encourage sick employees from coming to work.
- Making flu vaccine available to employees working all shifts to encourage compliance.
- Posting “cover your cough” signs at facility entrances to remind visitors about cough etiquette. Additionally, offer tissue, masks and hand sanitizers at all entrances.
About The Joint Commission
Founded in 1951, The Joint Commission seeks to continuously improve health care for the public, in collaboration with other stakeholders, by evaluating health care organizations and inspiring them to excel in providing safe and effective care of the highest quality and value. The Joint Commission accredits and certifies more than 21,000 health care organizations and programs in the United States. An independent, nonprofit organization, The Joint Commission is the nation’s oldest and largest standards-setting and accrediting body in health care. Learn more about The Joint Commission at www.jointcommission.org.