Seasonal Flu Facts and Immunization Management Techniques for Hospital Staff
Creating a standardized, easily-trackable immunization management process may be a simple way to reduce flu cases and employee absenteeism. We’ve compiled some interesting flu facts that will get you “in the know” this flu season. Healthcare workers can get influenza from patients and coworkers and spread it to others – including those with chronic medical conditions, pregnant women, young children, and older people at higher risk of serious complications – even though they don’t feel sick.1,2 In addition, flu among healthcare personnel can result in medical visits and lost work days.2 ABC News recently reported that “the number of people affected from the flu every year can vary widely, but generally, the CDC reports that ‘millions of people are sickened, hundreds of thousands are hospitalized and thousands or tens of thousands of people die from flu every year.’”3 Influenza outbreaks affect both your patients and your staff so it behooves hospital administrators to thoroughly understand it.
According to a U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report released late January 2017, seasonal flu cases have reached epidemic levels, including 15 pediatric deaths4 and widespread influenza in 37 states3. To see how your state compares, visit the CDC’s Weekly Influenza Map.
The name “influenza” means “influence of the stars” and is attributed to a 15th century epidemic in Italy. The worst influenza pandemic, or worldwide epidemic, was 21 million worldwide deaths 1918-1919. The first 21st century pandemic occurred between 2009-2010.
Influenza A virus was first isolated in 1933, followed by influenza B virus isolated in 1936. The first live attenuated influenza vaccine was licensed in 2003.
The Spread of Influenza
Influenza (the flu) is a highly infectious viral illness. It can be a serious disease that can lead to hospitalization and sometimes even death. Anyone can get very sick from the flu, including people who are otherwise healthy.1 In a typical seasonal influenza, approximately 90% of deaths occur in persons older than 65 years.5
Influenza viruses are spread mainly through droplets dispersed into the air when people with the flu cough, sneeze or talk. These droplets can be inhaled into the lungs or land in the mouths or noses of people who are up to 6 feet away. Less often, a person might get flu by touching a surface or object that has flu virus on it and then touching their own mouth or nose.1
Most healthy adults may be able to infect others beginning 1 day before symptoms develop and up to 5 to 7 days after becoming sick. Children may pass the virus for longer. Symptoms start 1 to 4 days after the virus enters the body. That means that you may be able to pass on the flu to someone else before you know you are sick, as well as while you are sick. Some persons can be infected with the flu virus but have no symptoms. During this time, those persons may still spread the virus to others.1
Flu and Healthcare Workers
The CDC, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), and the Healthcare Infection Control Practices Advisory Committee (HICPAC) recommend that all U.S. healthcare workers get vaccinated annually against influenza. Healthcare workers include (but are not limited to) physicians, nurses, nursing assistants, therapists, technicians, emergency medical service personnel, dental personnel, pharmacists, laboratory personnel, autopsy personnel, students and trainees, contractual staff not employed by the health-care facility, and persons (e.g., clerical, dietary, housekeeping, laundry, security, maintenance, administrative, billing, and volunteers) not directly involved in patient care but potentially exposed to infectious agents that can be transmitted to and from health care workers and patients.1
Annual vaccination is important because influenza is unpredictable, flu viruses are constantly changing and immunity from vaccination declines over time. Annual vaccination is recommended even when the vaccine composition remains unchanged.1
Flu vaccination coverage among healthcare personnel has improved but remains below the national Healthy People 2020 target of 90%.2 Typically about 2/3 of healthcare personnel receive early season flu vaccinations.1
Highest early season flu vaccination coverage:1
Nurse Practitioners/Physician Assistants 85.8%
Other Clinical Professionals 72%
Lowest early season flu vaccination coverage:1
Administrative & non-clinical support staff 59.1%
Assistants or Aides 46.6%
By comparison, early season flu vaccination coverage is
- 8% where employers require it
- 4% where employers recommend it
- 4% where employers don’t have a policy1
To find out more about the laws in your state, contact your state health department through:
- Public Health Resources: State Health Departments
- State Immunization Laws for Healthcare Workers and Patients
- Vaccines and Immunizations: Basics and Common Questions National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases
Those who do not get the vaccine most commonly respond that they don’t think that flu vaccines work. However, according to the CDC:
- The seasonal flu vaccine protects against the influenza viruses that research indicates will be most common during the upcoming season. Trivalent vaccines are made to protect against three flu viruses; an influenza A (H1N1) virus, an influenza A (H3N2) virus, and an influenza B virus. Quadrivalent vaccines protect against four viruses; the same viruses as the trivalent vaccine as well as an additional B virus.
- Flu vaccines cannot cause the flu. Flu vaccines are made with either killed or weakened viruses.
- Flu vaccines are safe. Serious problems from the flu vaccine are very rare. The most common side effect that a person is likely to experience is soreness where the injection was given. This is generally mild and usually goes away after a day or two. Visit Influenza Vaccine Safety for more information.
- Antibodies develop in the body about two weeks after vaccination. These antibodies provide protection against infection from viruses that are the same as or similar to those used to make the vaccine.
All 2016-2017 influenza vaccines are made to protect against the following three viruses:
- A/California/7/2009 (H1N1)pdm09-like virus
- A/Hong Kong/4801/2014 (H3N2)-like virus
- B/Brisbane/60/2008-like virus.
Some of the 2016-2017 flu vaccine is quadrivalent vaccine and also protects against an additional B virus (B/Phuket/3073/2013-like virus). This is a B/Yamagata lineage virus. More information about influenza vaccines is available at Preventing Seasonal Flu With Vaccination.
Who Shouldn’t Be Vaccinated1
Our list of flu facts wouldn’t be complete without listing who should not be vaccinated. The CDC recommends use of the flu shot (inactivated influenza vaccine or IIV) and the recombinant influenza vaccine (RIV). The nasal spray flu vaccine (live attenuated influenza vaccine or LAIV) should not be used during 2016-2017. Different flu vaccines are approved for use in different groups of people. Factors that can determine a person’s suitability for vaccination, or vaccination with a particular vaccine, include a person’s age, health (current and past) and any allergies to flu vaccine or its components.
- People who cannot get a flu shot
- People who should talk to their doctor before getting the flu shot
- Egg allergies: The recommendations for vaccination of people with egg allergies have changed for 2016-2017. People with egg allergies can receive any licensed, recommended age-appropriate influenza vaccine and no longer have to be monitored for 30 minutes after receiving the vaccine. People who have severe egg allergies should be vaccinated in a medical setting and be supervised by a health care provider who is able to recognize and manage severe allergic conditions.
Tracking and Reporting Flu Vaccinations
Venato makes it easy for hospitals to get a handle on immunization management for occ health so you can understand the numbers with a simple click of the mouse. With Venato, you’ll know:
- Your staff vaccination compliance rate
- Vaccinationcompliance rate for your volunteers
- Number of declinations with drill down to individuals who declined
- Comparisons of flu vaccination rates by title or job code
- Comparisons of flu vaccination rates by department or between hospitals
- Comparisons of flu vaccination rates to other vaccinations
Imagine being able to pinpoint areas in your hospital where vaccination rates are weakest. Venato is comprehensive occ health software that consolidates your hospital staff records. It lets you track flu shots and report them to the CDC’s National Healthcare Safety Network (NHSN) with a simple cut and paste. This robust, cloud-based, HIPAA-compliant occupational health management software also tracks other vaccinations/immunizations and health events like needlesticks and allows you to trend by job title, compare departments, and set and track standards across hospitals.
For a comprehensive and thorough review of flu facts and vaccination, visit the CDC’s “Pinkbook” on Epidemiology and Prevention of Vaccine-Preventable Diseases: Influenza.
For more flu facts, and updates and access to free materials to assist with educating staff and patients about the impact of influenza and the benefits of vaccination, visit CDC Seasonal Influenza (Flu) or call the National Immunization Hotline at (800) 232-2522 (English), (800) 232-0233 (Español), or (800) 243-7889 (TTY).