FLU-Give it a Shot!

flu-shot-photoOctober is a busy month for health professionals. We celebrate Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Mental Health Awareness Week, Dental Hygiene Month, Chiropractic Health Month, Pharmacist Month, Domestic Violence Awareness Month, Health Literacy Month and Patient Centered Care Awareness Month.

There are more awareness areas to be celebrated.  However, one is missing from the list.  It is special to October as it is the month that flu season begins and we all should be planning flu clinics and getting our own flu vaccines.

Recently the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Advisory Committee on Immunization and Practices (ACIP) adopted recommendations for the 2016-2017 flu season. This year two changes are noteworthy. The first is that the live, attenuated influenza vaccine (LAIV) has been found to be ineffective and will be unavailable this year. The second is that they have eliminated the egg allergy limitations of the past.

2016-2017 Changes

  • Flu Mist is Out-With no significant effectiveness found with the live virus vaccine, this year children’s immunization recommendations are for intermuscular doses only. Basically, children under 9 years of age will require one injection, children 6months to 8 years old will require two doses of the vaccine, unless they have received intermuscular injections in the past. Everyone 9 years of age and older, require only one dose of the 2016-2017 flu vaccine.
  • Egg Allergy Recommendations-These recommendations have changed a lot from prior years and the ACIP has listed the changes on their website. In summary, patients should still be observed for 15 minutes after the vaccine just in case there is a reaction. If a person has a history of a severe allergy to eggs, a medical provider should monitor their vaccinations. 

Nurses Responsibilities in Herd Immunity: Since corrections health is community health in many ways, nurses have a very important role during flu season and that begins with getting vaccinated. In the world of patient safety, a term called “Herd Immunity” is referred to as a means of stopping the spread of diseases. It also be called community immunity and describes protection from a contagious disease with community wide vaccination. The goal is prevention and containment of the disease. The concept is for the chain of infection to be interrupted by those vaccinated thus stopping the spread of disease to a susceptible host.

18 States have Mandates: In taking a leadership role in disease prevention, 18 states no longer allow health professionals to make a personal choice in obtaining an influenza vaccine. These laws are based on the hospital or facility type at this time. Since corrections facilities have a very fragile and vulnerable population, the same mandate should apply to personnel who work in these facilities as well.  Use this link to research the vaccination laws being published by the CDC.

Prevention is the Key: As nurses, we incorporate prevention into all our patient care activities and treatments. Key prevention tips include:

  • Wash your hands frequently and effectively.
  • Avoid close contact with those who show signs and symptoms of illness.
  • Stay home from work when you are sick.
  • Cover your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth.
  • Practice good health habits to stay healthy yourself.
  • Obtain flu vaccines for yourself and your family.

Outbreaks: In our corrections facilities, we do not have the luxury of isolating people in their homes or controlling their activities. However, there are processes we can plan for before an outbreak occurs or put in place if an outbreak occurs in your facility.

  • Educate the population about flu season and what they can do to reduce their risk.
  • Work with the local health department or pharmacist for a supply of flu vaccine. The supply this year is supposed to be adequate.
  • Monitor for outbreaks and track them. Work with custody to group ill inmates together, reduce movement, and limit visiting and other things to reduce transmission.
  • If ill patients have to go to court, institute droplet precautions by issuing a mask. Use a gown and gloves if necessary. Sometimes I have seen video court used with ill inmates or court delayed.
  • Administer antiviral treatment for those most vulnerable such as the elderly, chronically ill, immune compromised, pregnant or have acute medical conditions.
  • Consider vaccines for the entire population. Whether a jail or prison, every flu vaccine you administer, reduces the spread of disease in the community when they are released or have visitors.
  • Remember custody in your vaccination program. They want to stay healthy and not spread disease just like health staff.

Remember that vaccination is a community effort. Nurses’ commitment to vaccination best practices is critical to staying healthy and saving patient lives this influenza season. GIVE IT A SHOT

What is the influenza immunization policy in your institution? What practices are part of your plan to reduce the spread of disease? What happens when your facility has a flu outbreak? We enjoy hearing about your experience so please reply in the comment section.

Read more about the identification and management of infectious diseases in the correctional setting in our book the Essentials of Correctional Nursing. Order a copy directly from the publisher or from Amazon today! 

Photo Credit: http://www.U.S.fotolia.com/ https://www.fotolia.com/id/120105499

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