November 7, 2017

Infection control update: Influenza activity increasing in Middle Tennessee

Influenza season has begun in Middle Tennessee, with confirmed cases of influenza and clinic visits for influenza-like illness on the rise. Remember the precautions we all need to take to create a safe environment for our coworkers and patients:

  1. Wash your hands with soap and water or an alcohol-based gel or foam BEFORE entry and AFTER exit of the patient’s environment.
  2. Get vaccinated:   While our employee compliance rate with influenza (vaccination or approved exemption) is on pace with the past two years, an early start to the season leaves many people unprotected. We strongly encourage you to get vaccinated or submit an exemption request as soon as possible. As per VUMC policy, all faculty, house staff, and employees who have received an exemption from influenza vaccination are required to wear a surgical mask in all patient care areas until the influenza season has ended. The Department of Infection Prevention uses data from the VUMC Virology lab as well as regional surveillance data to assess the level of influenza activity. Once VUMC detects a sustained (for 2 consecutive weeks) increase in the number of cases of influenza, the masking period will begin. As of this week’s report, we are halfway to that point. 
  3. Vaccinate your patients: Per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, all persons over age 6 months should receive an annual influenza vaccine.  Even though the vaccine is not 100 percent effective, it reduces the risk of becoming ill with influenza.
  4. Isolate patients early: Place patients with fever and respiratory symptoms (cough, runny nose, sore throat) into droplet and contact precautions as per VUMC policy.
  5. Use appropriate treatment: Guidance on antiviral treatment against influenza may be found at http://www.cdc.gov/flu/professionals/antivirals/index.htm.
  6. Don’t visit/work if ill:
    1. Advise visitors if they have any flu-like symptoms to please visit at another time when they are feeling well.
    2. Any faculty, employees, and volunteers with respiratory symptoms should wear a surgical mask when in the patient’s environment (e.g. room, stretcher bay). If you have a fever over 100.4°F and respiratory symptoms, you should not work until you are without a fever for 24 hours without the use of fever-reducing medicine. 

For information on how to protect yourself and your patients from influenza, check the Department of Infection Prevention website, www.mc.vanderbilt.edu/infectioncontrol.