Many people think the flu is no big deal; but, in fact, it’s deadly and dangerous. Take time now to promote the importance of flu shots to your employees.
December 1-7 is National Influenza Vaccination Week. Your employees, even those who have limited or no contact with residents, may think that they don’t really need a flu shot. But the truth is that if they don’t get vaccinated, they could be putting themselves and others at serious risk.
The flu is more than a minor inconvenience. It can worsen chronic illnesses, such as lung or heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. At the same time, studies have documented an increased risk of heart attack and stroke in the first few days following the flu. Influenza can be deadly for anyone, but it is especially dangerous for adults age 50 and older who often have one or more chronic health conditions.
The flu vaccine “is always the best way to prevent flu and its potentially serious complications,” according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Health officials particularly recommend vaccines for adults age 50 and older. This matter is urgent, as federal officials in many states have reported early and/or widespread flu activity already this year.
Despite the documented value of flu vaccines, only 68% of long-term care workers, including those in assisted living, got vaccinated last year. There is much you can do to help overcome myths and misperceptions about flu shots and ensure that your workers (as well as visitors and others) get vaccinated. First and foremost, of course, you can require vaccinations for your employees who have direct contact with residents. You also can make this easy for all workers by supplying flu shots onsite at no cost.
Many organizations also mandate that volunteers get the flu shot annually. Consider holding vaccination clinics with music, food, and even prizes. Connect the flu shot with something positive and recognize employees for taking a step that protects their residents, themselves, their families, and others.
Remind workers about policies regarding flu prevention, including the need to stay home if they are sick and to always practice handwashing and other safety measures. If they experience any signs of illness, they should be encouraged to seek treatment immediately. If they get the flu and are prescribed antiviral drugs, they need to take these as instructed.
Get National Influenza Vaccination Week information and resources from the CDC here. The American Lung Associations also has some stories to help promote flu shots.