Preventing Influenza (the "Flu")

SeasonalFlu_sick_cold_cough.jpgTo assist SEIU healthcare members in preparing to deal with the seasonal flu, the Nurse Alliance of SEIU Healthcare's Health & Safety Committee has compiled some guidelines and several resource lists for healthcare workers.

These resources cover a wide range of issues such as how the flu spreads, flu prevention, establishing an effective voluntary flu vaccination program and why comprehensive infection control is the best tool for controlling the spread of the flu virus.

NOTE: This information is for the 2010-2011 flu season.

What is the Flu, and Is Your Employer Ready for It?

Our Union urges healthcare employers to establish and follow a comprehensive seasonal flu infection control program to protect their patients and employees. Comprehensive seasonal flu infection control programs must, at bare minimum, follow the current Centers for Disease Control Guidelines and Recommendations.

Our Union agrees with the September 1, 2009 Institute of Medicine (IOM) report that outlines the need for respirators and not surgical masks to protect healthcare workers. Unfortunately, the CDC has not included the IOM's recommendation in this year's guidance.

Our Union strongly supports the need for respirators and not surgical masks to protect healthcare workers providing direct patient care from the flu. In addition, the Union encourages its Local Unions to negotiate for this protective measure.

Influenza Prevention Factsheets:

Information about Mandatory Flu Vaccine Programs (PDF) | SEIU, October 29, 2010

Infection Control to Prevent the Spread of Influenza in Healthcare Settings (PDF) | Nurse Alliance of SEIU Healthcare, October 29, 2010

Seasonal Flu Response Plan Checklist (PDF) | Nurse Alliance of SEIU Healthcare, October 29, 2010

Letter to SEIU Members with Recommendations for Influenza Prevention (PDF) | From President Mary Kay Henry, SEIU Healthcare Chair L. Toni Lewis, MD and Nurse Alliance Chair of SEIU Dian Palmer, RN, November 16, 2010

Respiratory Infection Control: Respirators vs. Surgical Masks

Surveys of Healthcare Workers' Experience:

California Nurses Report on H1N1 (PDF) | Nurse Alliance of SEIU Healthcare, May 18, 2009.

Healthcare Workers In Peril: Preparing To Protect Worker Health And Safety During Pandemic Influenza (PDF)
A Union Survey Report, April 16, 2009 | SEIU, AFL-CIO, AFSCME, AFT, CWA, UAN, UFCW

In an effort to assess the extent of employer efforts in planning adequate safety and health measures for healthcare workers, a group of unions developed a "pandemic flu preparedness survey" to assess the level of preparedness on a facility basis. For key survey results and recommendations to address the problems uncovered by the survey, see the full report here.

Professional Organization Guidance:

Seasonal Influenza Prevention in Health Care Workers (PDF) | American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (ACOEM), 2006.

Reports:

Informational Videos:

Surgical Masks Not Effective for Airborne Flu

Respirators are the only personal protective equipment designed to protect against airborne exposures. Surgical or procedure masks will not protect against airborne flu exposure.

"Talkin 'bout the flu"

This video from the Boston Public Health Commission (BPHC) features former SEIU members in Massachusetts.

Influenza Respirator Selection and Fit Testing Overview for Healthcare Workers
Your employer must select a properly designed and approved respirator for you to wear to properly protect you. This clip shows the basics of selecting a proper respirator and the gives an introduction to the important 20 minute fit testing procedure to insure the respirator fits properly. For more on respirator selection, fit testing and other related topics, go to the U.S. OSHA website.

Putting on Influenza PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) for Healthcare Workers
Healthcare workers must be provided with the proper PPE, including respirators ( not surgical masks) to protect them from airborne, droplet and contact transmission of the flu virus. For more on respirator selection, fit testing and PPE, go to the U.S. OSHA website.

Taking Off Influenza PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) for Healthcare Workers
This video provides good procedures for healthcare workers for removing their contaminated influenza PPE. Proper removal is important to prevent becoming infected from the contaminated PPE.

Influenza Respirator Fit Testing: Qualitative Method
This video shows the importance of respirator fit testing for healthcare workers who will be exposed to seasonal) flu. It demonstrates the qualitative fit testing protocol, one of several OSHA approved methods that employers must use. A proper fit test following OSHA's procedures takes at least 15 minutes per person and must be done annually. Without passing a fit test, a respirator will not provide the expected protection and the wearer will be at an increased risk of becoming ill from the flu. You are fit tested to a specific model and size respirator which your employer then must provide you when needed while working.

Influenza Respirator Fit Testing: Portacount Quantitative Method
This video shows the importance of respirator fit testing for healthcare workers who will be exposed to seasonal flu. It demonstrates the quantitative fit testing protocol, (using the TSI Portacount machine) one of several OSHA approved methods that employers must use. A proper fit test following OSHA's procedures takes at least 15 minutes per person and must be done annually. Without passing a fit test, a respirator will not provide the expected protection and the wearer will be at an increased risk of becoming ill from the flu. You are fit tested to a specific model and size respirator which your employer then must provide you when needed while working.

Respiratory Hygiene 1948 British National Health Service
From the 1948 British National Health Service (NHS) Public Information Film, Coughs and Sneezes, this clip shows how to reduce the spread of disease from sneezing and coughing. Today, this is known as respiratory hygiene or cough etiquette and is an important way to reduce the spread of diseases such as the flu.

* These video clips are from a 2008 Australian Government Department of Health and Aging DVD "Pandemic Influenza Preparedness, Safe Use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)," downloadable from their website. While from Australia, they do show procedures in compliance with current OSHA regulations and guidance.

   » More information on how healthcare professionals can develop respirator fit testing programs to ensure that respirators provide adequate protection on SEIU.org here.

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