Infection Prevention - Flu, Viruses, and Other Health Issues
Individuals in long-term care settings are especially vulnerable to healthcare-associated infections (HAIs). Germs can be spread from resident to resident on unclean hands of long-term care personnel as well as through the improper use of equipment. According to the CDC, 30 outbreaks of hepatitis B and hepatitis C have occurred in non-hospital healthcare settings such as long-term care facilities in the last 10 years alone.
These infections can have negative emotional, financial, and medical effects on long-term care residents. HAIs can often be prevented, however, when residents, long-term care workers, and visitors follow the infection prevention procedures listed below.
- Discuss safety concerns with your long-term care staff.
- Wash your hands to prevent the spread of germs, and remind your care staff and visitors to do so as well.
- Make sure your care staff always uses new needles and syringes.
- Follow the instructions on your medication packages.
- Take all of your antibiotics as prescribed. Do not share your antibiotics with others, and remember antibiotics don’t fight viruses, such as the common cold.
- Educate yourself on the signs and symptoms of infections, such as influenza and MRSA.
- Protect yourself and those around you by getting a flu shot each year.
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Infection Prevention in Nursing Homes Webinar, Febraury 2014
This webinar was held on February 25, 2014. Topics covered include: understanding how infections can be spread and how the Ombudsman can be a part of the solution (hand washing; etc.); addressing issues with residents who are in isolation due to an infection; encouraging the nursing home to use this tool if infections are an issue; etc. The webinar can be accessed here and the handouts from the webinar are available here and here.
Infection Control in Health Care Facilities, February 2013
This CDC site is good for general research related to infection control in health care settings. It links to documents about infection control in long-term care facilities, many of which focus on influenza infection control.
Interim Guidance for Infection Control Within Healthcare Settings When Caring for Confirmed Cases, Probable Cases, and Cases Under Investigation for Infection with Novel Influenza A Viruses Associated with Severe Disease, January 2014
This CDC guide provides recommendations for Influenza A virus control when a suspected or confirmed case occurs in a health care facility. Recommendations include minimizing potential exposures through proper hygiene, glove, and facemask use, monitoring and managing ill and exposed health care personnel, and managing visitor movement within the facility.
Long-Term Care and Other Residential Facilities Pandemic Influenza Planning Checklist
This is a checklist aimed to assess strengths and weaknesses of long-term care facilities’ current preparations for a pandemic influenza outbreak. It includes recommended elements of an influenza pandemic plan, which typically include education, training, communication information, and vaccination plans.
Prevention Strategies for Seasonal Influenza in Healthcare Settings, January 2013
This CDC document outlines prevention strategies that can help reduce seasonal influenza incidence in health care settings such as long-term care facilities. Strategies include administration of the influenza vaccine, implementation of respiratory hygiene and cough etiquette, and implementation of environmental infection control measures.
Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Influenza and Pneumococcal Immunization Rates among Medicare Beneficiaries, April 2012
This report released by AARP found that immunization rates among older African Americans and Hispanics are lower than those for Whites.
Settings Where High-Risk Persons and Their Contacts May Be Targeted For Vaccination, March 2011
This notice from the CDC identifies nursing homes and other residential long-term care facilities as settings targeted for vaccination due to the concentration of high-risk persons.
The 2013-14 flu season started in October and could last for more than six months says the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). According to the CDC, the best prevention to getting the flu is to get a vaccination.
For older adults, the seasonal flu can be very serious. According to flu.gov, each year in the U.S., deaths from flu-related causes range from 3,300 to 48,600 (average of 23,600) and more than 200,000 are hospitalized from serious flu complications. Ninety percent of flu-related deaths and more than half of flu-related hospitalizations occur in people age 65 and older.
CDC and the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) that certain people should get vaccinated each year. Most of these people are recommended for vaccination because they are at high risk of having serious flu complications or they live with or care for people at high risk for serious complications. It is recommended that individuals working in health facilities, including nursing homes, and people who live in long-term care facilities get vaccinated.
Get The Flu Shot
Getting vaccinated means not only protecting yourself but not spreading the flu to others. CDC recommends getting the vaccine as soon as it becomes available as it can take the body about two weeks to build up immunity.
This flu season, people 65 years and older will have two flu shots available to choose from - a regular dose flu vaccine and a new flu vaccine designed specifically for people 65 and older with a higher dose. Both vaccines will protect against the same three flu viruses.
Everyday Preventive Actions
- Avoid people who are sick with the flu
- Stay home when you are sick
- Cover your mouth or nose when coughing or sneezing
- Wash your hands often
- Don't touch your eyes, nose or mouth
- Practice good health habits, such as eating properly, getting enough sleep and exercise
- Get plenty of sleep, stay physically active, manage your stress, drink plenty of fluids and eat nutritious food
Seek Medical Advice: Flu Symptoms Develop Quickly
In some cases, a medical evaluation or treatement with antiviral drugs is necessary. It is important that antiviral drugs be used early to treat flu in people.
Flu symptoms include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue. Some people may also have vomiting and diarrhea. People may be infected with the flu and have respiratory symptoms without a fever.
- fever (often high)
- extreme tiredness
- dry cough
- sore throat
- runny or stuffy nose
- muscle aches
- stomach symptoms, including nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea, may be present