Flu message from Drs. Weber, Rutala

UNC Health Care has seen an increase in viral influenza since mid-December (36 confirmed cases) and more than 8 percent of visits to the UNC Emergency Department are for patients with flu-like illnesses. Also, North Carolina reported several deaths from viral influenza this year. However, flu season has not yet peaked and there is still time to receive your flu vaccine.

UNC Occupational health has both inactivated (flu shots) and live attenuated (nasal spray) vaccines.  Both thimerosal free and/or latex free vaccine are available.  All employees must provide their ID badge and employee ID number (EID) to receive vaccine. Walk-in clinics are offered every day from 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. in OHS (1st floor, West Wing).

If you have received vaccine outside of the UNC Occupational Health clinic, please provide proof of immunization to become eligible to enter a weekly drawing for spectacular prizes. 

UNC Health Care has established as an employee incentive for FY 2011, immunizing at least 80 percent of UNC Health Care employees. This should be yet another reason for employees to obtain the influenza vaccine. 

Influenza epidemics have been associated with more than 250,000 hospitalizations (1979-2001) and an average of 36,000 deaths (1990-1999). Importantly, up to one-third of persons hospitalizated with viral influenza do NOT have any risk conditions for serious disease. 

Health care personnel may acquire infection at work and have served as the source of infection for patients. Importantly, people may be infectious for up to 24 hours before they develop symptoms. Influenza vaccine is a safe and effective method for preventing infection. 

For these reasons, the Centers for Disease Control, Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, professional organizations, and UNC Health Care believe that all health care personnel should receive influenza vaccine annually (unless medically contraindicated). 

Multiple studies have demonstrated that healthcare facilities that achieve high rates of immunization of their employees have lower rates of influenza infection and deaths in their patients. In addition, to protecting patients influenza immunization is associated with reduced rates of illness among health care personnel. 

Sincerely,

David J. Weber, MD, MPH
Medical Director, Occupational Health
Associate Chief of Staff

William A, Rutala, PhD, MPH
Director, Hospital Epidemiology and Occupational Health