The fall season may mean football games, hayrides, and cooler weather. It also means the start of the flu season. The flu can affect anyone, but healthcare travelers who are providing direct patient care are especially at risk of contracting the flu.
Know the Facts
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 10-20% of people in the United States develop the flu. Of those people, the CDC estimates that roughly 12,000 to 50,000 people die every year from flu complications.
The start of the flu season and the severity of the disease can vary from year to year. Flu season can start as early as October and last into May. Usually, flu activity peaks between December and March.
The vaccine is made from an inactive virus, which cannot infect you with the flu. It can cause side effects, such as a sore arm, muscle aches, and a low-grade fever, but not the flu itself.
Flu Vaccines and Healthcare Travelers
Healthcare workers are encouraged to get the flu vaccine annually. Some facilities have a mandatory flu vaccine policy. If you are working as a healthcare traveler during flu season, make sure you know the facility’s policy.
You may be permitted to skip the flu vaccine due to religious beliefs. If that is the case, you need to sign a declaration that you refused the shot. Some hospitals require healthcare workers to receive a flu shot, or they must wear a surgical mask over their nose and mouth during flu season when in patient care areas.
Other facilities may have different policies and may not allow you to work at all if you do not get the vaccine. Since policies can vary, if you move from one travel assignment to the next during flu season, don’t assume policies are the same.
Be aware the flu vaccine is not foolproof. There are different strains of flu viruses that are most prominent each year. The vaccine is developed based on surveillance data, which indicates what influenza viruses are expected to circulate. Some flu seasons the predictions are more accurate than others, and the vaccine is very effective.
When it comes to the flu and proving patient care, remember it’s not just about keeping yourself healthy. You can also spread the virus to your patients before you even realize you’re sick, which is why hospitals and other healthcare facilities strongly encourage or mandate vaccines.
Other Ways to Prevent the Spread of the Flu
Regardless of whether or not you get the flu vaccine, there are several things you can do to decrease getting sick and spreading the virus.
- Wash your hands often.
- Get plenty of sleep, eat a healthy diet, and exercise regularly to keep your immune system strong.
- Use personal protective equipment at work.
- Don’t go to work when you’re sick.
- Use disinfectant wipes on common areas, such as commuters, desks, and phones.
Getting the flu is no fun. Hopefully, by taking some of the above steps, you stay healthy this flu season. Have any other helpful tips? Share with us in the comments section below.