You may think that it is too early to start thinking about influenza, but UW Medicine wants to make sure that all of our patients, staff, and faculty are prepared well before the season starts.
There are bunch of things we can do to stop influenza. The first thing is to not get infected in the first place! Although not perfect, the influenza vaccine is the best method we have to protect everyone from not only contracting influenza but also from developing the most serious types of infection that land people in the hospital. The people who are at greatest risk from influenza, such those at the extremes of age and those living with immunodeficiencies, don’t get the beneficial effects of a vaccine, so they are counting on the rest of us to help protect them. When you get vaccinated, you are protecting yourself and everyone around you.
If you do come down with influenza or an influenza-like illness, it is important to prevent spreading it around. Everything we learned as children still works– frequent hand washing and covering our cough with our elbow are key! Please stay home if you’re ill and don’t return to work until you have had about 24 hours without a fever. This gives you time to get better and to stop spreading the virus. Influenza typically presents with a fever, sore muscles, and fatigue, but can look like other respiratory illnesses. People with more severe symptoms should contact their provider with any concerns or questions. There is treatment for influenza, but it is typically used only in certain patient situations. In fact, not everyone who thinks that they might have influenza even needs to be tested. Again, your provider is the best person to make that decision with you.
For UW Medicine staff and faculty, preventing influenza is critical. Not only do we not want our patients to get infected in the first place, they are also counting on all of us for their care– in other words, every faculty and staff person is essential to patient care. The UW Medicine Employee Influenza Vaccination Program starts on Monday, September 28 and continues throughout flu season. All current employees without a medical exemption are expected to be vaccinated by Friday, November 6. The vaccine is free and we will have extended hours at the Employee Health Clinic through Friday, October 16, including evenings, nights, and weekends. Employees are also welcome to stop by the hospital Employee Health Clinics with questions or for vaccinations.
Feel free to shoot me an email with any questions. Thanks for doing your part to stop influenza!
Not part of UW Medicine? Check out the 2015 flu shot clinic schedule on all campuses here.
Dr. John Lynch is an infectious disease doctor and is the medical director of employee health services, infection control, and antibiotic stewardship at Harborview Medical Center. When not stomping out influenza and other infectious diseases, he is bombing down mountains on his bike with his daughters.