It’s been a mild winter for most of the U.S. With this year’s spring-like temperatures, many people may believe that flu season is already behind us. But flu season actually runs through March 31, so we still need to be vigilant about protecting our patients from influenza.

Kathy Silliman, RN, Clinical Program Developer in Kindred Healthcare’s Nursing Center Division, offers the following tips for preventing influenza outbreaks:

  1. Encourage all employees to be vaccinated against influenza. “The flu vaccination is the first line of defense against influenza,” Silliman says. “If employees are immunized, when they go outside the building at the end of the day, they’re less likely to contract the flu virus and bring it back inside the building where it can be easily spread to patients who may be immunocompromised.”
  2. Encourage patients to get the flu vaccine. “Before flu season begins, we send all of our centers updated vaccine information statements for patients,” says Silliman. The vaccine information statements, which are developed by the CDC, go over the benefits and risks of taking the vaccine. If the patient is cognitively challenged, then the information can be shared with the family.”
  3. Educate visitors, families and employees about hand hygiene and respiratory hygiene. “Kindred Healthcare has made hand hygiene and respiratory hygiene posters available to all of our centers,” Silliman says. “The posters are distributed at the beginning of flu season. We also provide foam gel dispensers throughout each center so they’ll be easily accessible to staff and visitors.”

Be aware of potential outbreaks in your area. “Every year at the beginning of flu season, we send out notifications to all of our centers about what’s happening in the influenza arena,” says Silliman. “If there’s an outbreak in a particular state, we’ll send a separate warning to all of our facilities in that state.”

Prevent the flu - get vaccinated!