The Joint Commission has issued a new "Quick Safety" advisory concerning flu prevention in healthcare organizations.
Quick Safety 46 notes that the number of cases of influenza-associated illness that occurred last season was the highest since the 2009 H1N1 pandemic. During the 2017-2018 flu season, an estimated 48.8 million became ill with influenza. Of those, almost 23 million went to a healthcare provider, nearly a million were hospitalized and nearly 80,000 died from influenza.
While the severity of flu seasons varies, The Joint Commission states that prevention efforts are critical to avoiding contracting the flu and protecting others, including patients.
The Joint Commission shares the following recommended actions for healthcare workers:
Get vaccinated. Doing so annually is "the best way to prevention seasonal flu."
Clean hands frequently with soap and water or alcohol-based hand rub.
Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth as they are openings for germs to enter the body after touching a contaminated surface.
Clean and disinfect surfaces frequently.
If sick or showing flu symptoms, stay home.
Cover mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing.
Clean hands after handling tissue.
The Joint Commission also provides the following recommendations for organizations:
Implement supportive, non-punitive time-off policies to encourage sick employees from coming to work.
Make the flu vaccine available to employees working all shifts. This will encourage compliance.
Post signs at facility entrances to remind visitors about cough etiquette.
Offer tissue, masks and hand sanitizers at all entrances.