Like many hospitals across the nation, the MGH has been seeing many influenza (flu) cases and patients with flu-like symptoms. The severity and duration of any flu season is difficult to predict, but the peak is typically seen during the month of February. This year flu cases started early, and based on the number of positive flu tests done here at the MGH, cases have recently begun to decrease. There are several ways staff can help to prevent the transmission of the flu, including following infection control policies. Key things to remember:
• The single most effective means of preventing influenza is the flu vaccine. Flu shots are 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, or are encouraged to make an appointment by calling 617-726-2217.
• The flu vaccine also is still available for MGH patients who have not yet been vaccinated. Patients should call their primary care physician’s office to see if they have the vaccine and make an appointment for a flu shot. Flu shots also are being given at many other locations, including area health centers, boards of health, senior centers and local drug stores.
• Hand hygiene is key to minimizing the risk of infection from the spread of the virus from person to person. The main way that influenza viruses are thought to spread is from person to person in respiratory droplets of coughs and sneezes. Therefore good cough etiquette also should be used. Cough or sneeze into tissues and dispose of them immediately; then wash or sanitize your hands or cough into your upper sleeve. Contaminated surfaces may also contribute to the spread of viruses so remember to keep your hands out of your eyes, nose or mouth, especially after touching environmental surfaces in public places such as on the MBTA.
• 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 had the flu also are required to remain out of work until the fever is gone for 24 hours, without the use of anti-fever medication.
Read more articles from the 01/18/13 Hotline issue.