The flu is a serious health threat to vulnerable populations such as people 65 and older and those living with chronic medical conditions. People in those groups account for the majority of flu hospitalizations and deaths in the United States each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
People living with and caring for high-risk persons should take every precaution to protect themselves and those they are caring for during influenza season. Vaccination is the most effective way to prevent the flu, and DHEC and the CDC recommends that everyone 6 months and older get vaccinated annually.
Health care workers are recommended, and sometimes required by an employer, to be vaccinated against the flu. The reason is quite simple: Staff in doctors’ offices, hospitals and long-term care facilities have direct or indirect contact with patients. Health care staff are at risk not only of becoming infected with influenza at work, but also of spreading it to patients and their coworkers.
Vaccination of long-term health care staff is especially important because most of their patients are elderly or have chronic health issues and are at higher risk of flu complications. Residents and staff in long-term care facilities often have regular close contact. According to the CDC, studies show that during a confirmed influenza outbreak in a long-term care facility, up to one in three residents and one in four staff develop an influenza-like illness. Click here for more information on why it is important for health care personnel in long-term care to be vaccinated against the flu.
Visit the CDC’s website to see how to improve vaccination coverage among long-term health care personnel. Visitors at the website also can access an influenza toolkit for long-term care employers.
It’s not too late to get your flu vaccine! Even if you don’t have a regular health care provider the flu vaccine is available in many settings. In addition to DHEC clinics, many local providers — including doctors’ offices, clinics, pharmacies, college health centers, schools and workplaces — now offer flu vaccines. DHEC encourages everyone to find the facility that works best for them.