The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) and the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) recommend that all health care workers get an annual flu vaccine and offer information about vaccination.
Did You Know…
- Fewer than half of health care workers report getting an annual flu vaccine.
- As a health care worker, by getting vaccinated, you can help protect your family at home as well as your patients at work from getting sick.
- Influenza outbreaks in hospitals and long-term care facilities have been attributed to low vaccination rates among health care professionals.
- Studies have shown that higher vaccination rates among health care workers can reduce influenza-like illness, and even deaths, in settings like nursing homes.
- Health care workers play an important role in protecting public health, and your co-workers need you to be healthy and able to cover your shift.
- Getting a yearly flu vaccine can help ensure your time off is spent doing what you want to do, not staying at home sick.
Influenza (Flu) Facts
The flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses. It can cause mild to severe illness, and at times can lead to hospitalizations and death.
The main way that influenza viruses are thought to spread is from person to person in respiratory droplets of coughs and sneezes. Influenza viruses may also be spread when a person touches respiratory droplets on another person or an object and then touches their own mouth or nose (or someone else’s mouth or nose) before washing their hands.
Most healthy adults may be able to infect others beginning 1 day before symptoms develop and up to 5-7 days after becoming sick. Children may pass the virus for longer than seven days.
Some people, such as older adults, pregnant women, and very young children as well as people with certain long-term medical conditions are at high risk of serious complications from the flu. These medical conditions include chronic lung diseases, such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), diabetes, heart disease, neurologic conditions and pregnancy.
Since health care workers may care for or live with people at high risk for influenza-related complications, it is especially important for them to get vaccinated annually.
Health Care Workers and Influenza Vaccination
Health care workers have a special role in the fight against influenza.
- By getting vaccinated themselves, health care workers can protect their health, their families health and the health of their patients.
- Encouraging vaccination of vulnerable patients can protect them from the flu.
- High rates of vaccination among nurses and health care workers have been linked to improved patient outcomes and reduced absenteeism and influenza infection among staff.
Annual vaccination is important because influenza is unpredictable and flu viruses are constantly changing. Even if you’ve been vaccinated before, the flu vaccine from a previous season may not protect against current flu viruses.
- Health care workers who should be vaccinated include physicians, nurses, other workers in hospital and outpatient-care settings, and medical emergency-response workers (e.g., paramedics and emergency medical technicians). It is also important for employees of nursing homes and long-term-care facilities who have contact with patients or residents, and students of these professions who will have contact with patients to all be vaccinated.
Flu Vaccine Facts
The 2010-11 flu vaccine provides protection against the three main viruses that research indicates will cause the most illness this season. The 2010-11 flu vaccine will protect against an influenza A (H3N2) virus, an influenza B virus, and the 2009 H1N1 virus that caused so much illness last season.
Flu vaccines CANNOT cause the flu. The viruses in flu vaccines are either killed (the flu shot) or weakened (the nasal-spray vaccine). The flu vaccines work by priming your body’s defenses in case you are exposed to an actual flu virus.
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.
Which Vaccine Should You Get?
There are two types of flu vaccine: (1) the “flu shot” [PDF – 89 KB] – a vaccine with killed virus given by needle injection and (2) the nasal-spray vaccine [PDF – 477 KB] (Live Attenuated Influenza Vaccine or LAIV) – a vaccine with weakened live viruses.
The flu shot is approved for use in people older than 6 months, including healthy people and people with chronic medical conditions.
The nasal-spray vaccine (LAIV) is approved for use in healthy people 2 to 49 years of age. Nearly all healthy, non-pregnant health care workers, may receive LAIV if eligible, including those who come in contact with newborn infants (e.g., persons working in the neonatal intensive care unit, or NICU), pregnant women, persons with a solid organ transplant, persons receiving chemotherapy, and persons with HIV/AIDS.
However, health care providers should not get LAIV if they are providing medical care for patients who require special environments in the hospital because they are profoundly immunocompromised, for example if they work in bone marrow transplant units. This is intended as an extra precaution and is not based on reports of vaccine virus transmission in those settings. The flu shot is preferred for vaccinating health care workers who are in close contact with severely immunocompromised patients who are being cared for in a protective environment. These health care workers may still get LAIV, but they must avoid contact with such patients for 7 days after getting vaccinated.
No special precautions (e.g., masks or gloves) are necessary for health care personnel who have been vaccinated with LAIV and who do not work with patients undergoing bone marrow transplantation.
The role that you and other health care workers play in helping prevent influenza-related illness and death-especially in high-risk patients-is invaluable. By setting a good example and spreading flu facts (instead of the flu itself) among your colleagues and patients, you have the opportunity to save even more lives.
Protect yourself, your family, and your patients by getting a flu vaccine.
For more information about flu information, updates, and access to free materials to assist with educating staff and patients about the impact of influenza and the benefits of vaccination, visit www.cdc.gov/flu and www.flu.gov, or call the National Immunization Hotline at (800) 232-2522 (English), (800) 232-0233 (español), or (800) 243-7889 (TTY).