By Audrey Landers, Intern
It is a cruel cosmic joke that the influenza season takes place during the busiest and most stressful time of the year. No one can afford to be sick during the holiday season, especially not medical office staff. Without proper precautions, the flu can infect an entire office, leaving employees trying to perform their duties through a haze of fatigue, or worse, being unable to come in at all. With a few simple steps, you can minimize the effect that the flu will have on your workplace.
Recent studies performed by the Center for Disease Control & Prevention(CDC) show that the flu vaccine is between 40% and 60% effective. This year, the CDC recommends injectable flu vaccines, so make sure your employees know not to get the nasal spray. You can encourage employees to get the flu vaccine by allowing them to take time during the work-day to get the shot. Have shots performed in the office by clinical staff for free or offer to reimburse shots received at a qualified location.
Encourage Good Health Habits
While your employees should already be partaking in good health habits such as hand washing, it is even more important during the flu season. Every employee should wash their hands frequently for at least 20 seconds with soap and water. Make sure all bathrooms are stocked with soap and hand sanitizer. displaying signs in bathrooms and above sinks can help remind forgetful or neglectful employees and patients about the importance of clean hands.
Beware of Fomites
As SCG Health has discussed before on this blog, fomites are objects that have the capability to carry infectious organisms that might transfer from one person to another. While you may already be in the habit of regularly cleaning fomites such as stethoscopes and patient exam tables, other less obvious fomites are hiding right under your nose. Anything that is touched by many people in one day should be sanitized regularly. Common office items such as keyboards and computer mice are major fomites that should be sanitized regularly with a bleach-based cleaner. You should also be paying special attention to doorknobs, especially those connected to bathroom doors.
Deal with your Patient Lobbies
Lobbies full of sick patients can easily become a breeding ground for the flu. Some practices are able to avoid the spread of illness by offering separate lobbies for patients who are sick and patients who are not. If your practice cannot offer two lobbies or if you feel you need to take further precautions, you have a number of options. Having disposable face masks and hand sanitizer dispensers in patient areas can allow patients to take their health into their own hands. You can also keep sanitizing wipes on hand to quickly wipe down chairs, toys, and other items that many patients may come into contact with. Prominently displayed posters can also instruct patients on how to keep the flu from spreading by covering their mouth when they sneeze or cough.
Tell Sick Employees to Stay Home
If you can afford it, you should encourage employees who may be sick and contagious to stay home. The CDC recommends that any employee with a fever should remain away from work until 24 hours after their fever has ended without medication.
This blog post was written as part of the CDC’s blog-a-thon to spread influenza vaccine awareness. To learn more about current influenza vaccine recommendations, you can check out our previous post or head over to the CDC’s website to learn everything you need to know.
Keep an eye out for the #FluStory Twitter storm on December 6 and be sure to share your #FluStory to help spread awareness.