ANA encourages nurses and health care workers to get vaccinated against flu

11/16/05

New survey shows 75 percent of polled nurses are concerned about an outbreak of influenza in their workplace

Silver Spring, MD, November 16, 2005 – A new survey supported by the American Nurses Association (ANA) reveals that 86 percent of polled registered nurses are extremely or very concerned about their patients becoming infected with influenza. In response, ANA today launched a campaign designed to educate and encourage nurses and all health care workers with direct patient contact to get vaccinated against influenza for this coming season. Influenza-infected health care workers can spread the virus to vulnerable patients in their care. Health care workers – especially nurses in hospitals, physician offices, long term care facilities and community settings such as schools – are urged to visit www.nursingworld.org to learn more about how they can protect themselves, their patients and family members against the virus.

"Based on documented history of other years, nurses and other health care workers have a low rate of being vaccinated against annual influenza – only 36 percent of health care workers receive influenza vaccination each year, according to the CDC," said Barbara A. Blakeney, MS, RN, president, American Nurses Association. "The ANA hopes this campaign will encourage nurses – and all health care workers – to get vaccinated this season and remind them of their responsibility to keep themselves healthy, especially given their direct contact with patients who may be at high risk for complications of influenza. There is also a role for employers and policymakers to take action to support achieving this goal."

Influenza and influenza related complications kill more people than all other vaccine-preventable illnesses combined. Influenza affects five to 20 percent of the total U.S. population during each influenza season. Between 1990 and 1999, approximately 36,000 people died in the United States each year from complications of influenza infection; more than 90 percent of these deaths occurred in persons 65 years of age and older. Influenza can reach epidemic levels and poses a significant threat to public health, particularly among the nation's oldest and youngest citizens. Vaccination is the primary method for preventing influenza and its severe complications.

Additional Survey Findings

Nearly all registered nurses surveyed (97 percent) agree that one health care worker infected with influenza in a health care setting puts all patients and co-workers at risk. The survey reveals 95 percent of nurses also agree that all health care workers should get vaccinated against influenza each year, however only 5 percent of nurses polled believe that all of their co-workers received an influenza vaccination last year. More than half of nurses polled consider themselves extremely or very susceptible to influenza this coming season and almost all (95 percent) nurses agree influenza vaccination is critical in reducing the risk of potential influenza epidemics. Nurses polled are cognizant of the complications that may arise as the result of influenza. However, many (77 percent) nurses polled who are aware that influenza can be deadly underestimate the number of deaths that occur as a result of the disease each year, which is an average of 36,000.

"ANA is deeply committed to protecting nurses, their patients and their families against influenza," continued Blakeney. "In fact, we recently revised our organization's position to stress the importance of universal vaccination among health care workers and we support the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases' (NFID) position regarding the importance of improving vaccination rates among health care workers."

About Influenza

Many respiratory diseases occur every winter but influenza is one of the most severe. The illness is easily passed from one person to another through the air by tiny droplets released when an infected individual coughs or sneezes. Most people recover fully within a week or two, but the risk of complications is elevated in very young, very old and chronically ill persons.

Although epidemics of influenza happen in most years, the beginning, severity and length of the epidemic can vary widely from year to year. Before a season begins, it is not possible to accurately predict the features of any season. While October or November is the best time to get vaccinated, getting the influenza vaccine in December, or even later, can be beneficial in most years. Influenza season can begin as early as October and last as late as May. People who should receive the influenza vaccine include the very young, people 50 years of age or older, the chronically ill, women who will be pregnant during influenza season and all health care workers.

In addition to the public health threat influenza poses, the disease has economic repercussions. More than 200,000 influenza-related hospitalizations occurred per year in the United States between 1979 and 2001. Influenza epidemics can have a significant impact on the U.S. economy, as influenza infection results in an average of 2.8 lost workdays per episode, or $398 in lost wages for the average worker. Recent estimates put the cost of influenza epidemics to the economy at $71 – $167 billion per year.

Source: Eurekalert & others

Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
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