Healthcare Workers and the Flu

Healthcare Workers and the Flu

Every year the influenza vaccination is offered free to healthcare staff  to help reduce the risk of them contracting the flu virus and transmitting it to anyone with whom they may come in contact. 

Every staff member is offered the flu vaccine, in order to achieve the highest possible level of vaccination coverage; a desired outcome is to have 100% of healthcare workers with direct patient contact vaccinated.

Why is this important for clinical staff?

Front-line healthcare workers are more likely to be exposed to the influenza virus, particularly during winter months when some of their patients will be infected. It has been estimated that up to one in four healthcare workers may become infected with influenza during a mild flu season – a much higher incidence than expected in the general population.

Protection

Vaccination of healthcare workers is advised to not only protect the healthcare workers, but also their patients, colleagues and family members. Those that get vaccinated not only set an example to colleagues and peers, but demonstrate their commitment to providing high quality, compassionate care.

Is vaccination effective?

The flu vaccine is up to 70% effective depending on the age/ health of the person receiving it; and on the composition of the vaccine (how well it matches the current circulating influenza strains).

Is the vaccine safe?

The most common side effect can be bruising or localised muscle stiffness (at the injection site). In addition, low grade fever, malaise, fatigue, headaches and joint pain are among the symptoms commonly noticed after intramuscular injections. It is important to note that these effects are much milder than a flu infection and can be controlled with over-the-counter pain killers.

Flu-like symptoms experienced by people who have recently received the vaccine are not caused by influenza but are likely due to either the body’s immune response to the vaccine, or one of many other circulating respiratory viruses. Since it can take up to two weeks following vaccination to develop immunity to influenza, it is possible to develop influenza if exposed to influenza illness during this period.

It is always recommended healthcare staff seek their flu jab annually (prior to the flu season) to ensure timely protection from the varied strains of influenza.

If you work in a healthcare setting and would like to know more, contact your line manager or the Infection Control team (Tel:+350 20007315).