JUST A PINCH: Ekaterina Laiter, RN, administers a flu shot at MGH Occupational Health Services.
Earlier this week, Boston Mayor Thomas Menino declared a public health emergency due to the growing number of influenza (flu) cases within the city. At the MGH, there has been a considerable increase in the number of flu cases in the past several weeks, with health centers, outpatient practices and the Emergency Department reporting seeing an additional 40 to 80 patients a day with flu-like illness. This significant increase has also resulted in capacity challenges, as many inpatient beds have been closed to isolate influenza patients, and the MGH has been further affected by an overall increase in sicker patients who require longer hospital stays.
“MGH staff should be particularly mindful about observing best-practice infection control in order to help manage patient flow and the spread of the flu virus,” said David Hooper, MD, chief of the Infection Control Unit. “Important influenza updates are posted regularly to the MGH Influenza Information SharePoint site, and staff also should touch base regularly with their managers and supervisors for the latest flu information or call the Infection Control Unit at (617) 726-2036 if they have questions.”
The MGH Influenza Information SharePoint site is accessible from Partners computer desktops by clicking Start>Partners Applications>Clinical References>MGH Influenza Information.
Flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses. Symptoms of the flu can include a fever of 100 degrees Fahrenheit or higher, cough, sore throat, body aches, nasal congestion/runny nose and general weakness. The flu can cause mild to severe illness, and at times can lead to death.
The single most effective means of preventing influenza is the flu vaccine. Flu shots are still available for MGH staff at MGH Occupational Health Services, located at 165 Cambridge St., Suite 404. Staff can walk in between 7 am and 5 pm weekdays, but are encouraged to make an appointment by calling (617) 726-2217. A special employee flu clinic will also be held on Jan. 14 from 7 am to 5 pm in the Maxwell & Eleanor Blum Patient and Family Learning Center, located in White 110.
NOT TOO LATE: Sandra Gregoire, RN, reminds MGH employees that they can still receive a flu shot and pick up an ID badge sticker.
“Vaccines are not 100 percent effective, but they do provide benefit to the majority of people who receive them. Even if the flu vaccine does not fully prevent getting the flu, there are good data to suggest it makes the disease milder,” says Hooper.
There are also several other ways employees can help prevent the transmission of the flu:
• Hand hygiene is the key to minimizing risk of infection and from the spread of the virus from person to person. For patient care providers, using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer, such as Cal-Stat, is effective in preventing the transmission of virus and should be used frequently. It should always be used before and after contact with a patient or with the patient’s environment.
• Good cough etiquette should be used. Cough or sneeze into tissues and dispose of them immediately. Clean your hands immediately after coughing and sneezing – with Cal Stat or by washing with soap and water. Avoid touching your eyes, mouth, or nose. An alternate approach to remember is to cough into your upper sleeve.
• Staff should not come to work if they have a fever of 100.5 degrees Fahrenheit or higher and one or more of the following symptoms: runny nose or nasal congestion, sore throat, cough or body aches.
• Staff who have the flu are required to remain out of work until the fever is gone for 24 hours, without the use of anti-fever medication.
• All staff should wear a mask when caring for patients with flu or suspect flu.
For more information, visit massgeneral.org/flu