12 Things You Can Do To Prevent Transmission of Influenza within a Health Care Setting

The 2013 flu season appears to be making its appearance early, and based upon reports is severe. As a physician, you have the responsibility to help prevent its transmission within your hospital and office. Within a health care setting, a multi-faceted approach is necessary.

The following recommendations come from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and will assist you in preventing influenza transmission.

  1. Promote and administer seasonal influenza vaccine
    It only takes a few minutes for you and your staff to be immunized. Lead by example and get your shot. And decide what steps you want to take if an employee refuses to get the shot.
  2. Take steps to minimize potential exposure
    Screen and triage symptomatic patients and implement respiratory hygiene and cough etiquette. If necessary, take steps to limit unnecessary visitors to a health care setting during periods of influenza activity. Provide facemasks for those who need them, and have supplies for hand washing. You may need to set up a triage station.
  3. Keep an eye open for ill health care personnel
    If someone on your office staff presents with symptoms, instruct them to go home.
  4. Use standard precautions
    When caring for a patient, stick to the standard procedures that are proven to prevent transmission. Wash your hands before and after all patient contact. Wear new gloves during contact with a potentially infectious patient. Wear gowns for patient-care activities that could involve transmission.
  5. Don’t forget droplet precautions
    Place patients with suspected or confirmed influenza in a private room or area.
  6. Use caution when performing aerosol-generating procedures.
  7. Manage visitor access and movement within the facility.
  8. Monitor the influenza activity in your community.
  9. Use the PA Department of Health’s Influenza Weekly Report to keep an eye on what’s happening in your county. Use environmental infection control to its fullest. Standard cleaning and disinfection procedures should be followed.
  10. Consider designing and installing engineering controls, such as partitions in triage areas, to reduce or eliminate exposure.
  11. Train your staff to be able to identify the signs of influenza and preventive measures.
    The CDC offers extensive information on clinical signs and symptoms of influenza.
  12. Administer antiviral treatment and chemoprophylaxis of patients and health care personnel when appropriate.

Physicians should also take into consideration that some health care personnel may be at higher risk for complications. Work out arrangements with those individuals so that they may continue to work without being exposed.

To learn more, read “Prevention Strategies for Seasonal Influenza in Health Care Settings” on CDC’s website.