Protecting Your At-Risk Staff During Flu Season

nurses in break room

Flu season is fast upon us, and this year looks a lot different than most. Usually, we’re concerned with protecting healthcare workers from catching the flu, but this year brings a double whammy: flu season paired with the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis. And since COVID-19 and the flu share so many symptoms, it’s doubly important to take all measures possible to protect your healthcare staff from exposure to the coronavirus—especially as demand for flu tests and vaccines ramps up. Read on to learn about what you can do to make things safer for your staff during flu season this year. 

Use Screening Procedures With Patients

Triaging and screening procedures for patients are already recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as preventive measures against COVID-19 for healthcare workers, but they become even more important in light of flu season. The flu and COVID-19 share most of their symptoms, but they do have a few key differences that can be pinpointed during a screening procedure before your workers deliver care. And if COVID-19 patients are screened ahead of time, it can help keep your workers safer. 

The symptoms of COVID-19 that rarely present for the flu include difficulty breathing, shortness of breath, and a new loss of smell or taste. Make sure to ask all patients if they’re experiencing any of these symptoms—and whether or not they’ve been in contact with someone with a confirmed case of COVID-19—during the screening process. 

Additionally, flu symptoms typically present within one to four days of exposure to the flu virus, whereas COVID-19 symptoms can present anywhere between two to 14 days after exposure. More rapid onset of symptoms could point to the flu, whereas a prolonged onset could mean COVID-19. This isn’t a rule, but something to keep in mind. 

Encourage Vaccination Among Patients & Residents 

While progress is being made on a COVID-19 vaccine, none are available to the public yet. Flu vaccines, however, are widely available—and recommended by the CDC for all people 6 months and older. 

Let your patients and residents of senior living communities know that the flu vaccine will play a more important role than ever in their health this season, especially for those at higher risk of developing serious complications from COVID-19, such as seniors, immunocompromised individuals, and people with underlying health conditions. The more patients get vaccinated, the safer it is for your healthcare workers. 

You should also be aware that vaccination procedures might change in light of COVID-19. Not all places that usually offer vaccines will this season, as they might not be able to enforce important preventive measures against COVID-19. The CDC offers a guide to vaccination during the COVID-19 crisis to help healthcare facilities and workers maximize immunization to the flu while still keeping people safe from COVID-19. 

Take All Possible Preventive Measures 

Aside from enhanced screening protocols and increased flu vaccination, there are a number of preventive measures recommended by the CDC that your healthcare facility can take to minimize your staff’s risk of contracting COVID-19, including: 

  • Taking advantage of telehealth strategies, if possible 
  • Requiring good hand hygiene and physical distancing when possible
  • Enhancing sanitization protocols
  • Requiring that staff who have been in close contact with someone with a confirmed case of COVID-19 quarantine for two weeks before returning to work 
  • Optimizing PPE to ensure staff members have appropriate resources at all times

Partner With DispatchHealth 

If your healthcare facility and your staff are stressed and afraid as flu season ramps up, you’re not alone. We’re all in this together, and DispatchHealth is here to help. We offer in-home care for simple to complex illnesses as an alternative to traditional brick-and-mortar emergency rooms and urgent care facilities. In fact, we’re able to treat almost everything an emergency department can treat, including high-acuity illnesses. A partnership with us can help your patients avoid unnecessary trips to the emergency room, allowing them to stay comfortable at home and avoid potential exposure to the coronavirus out in public. And we’re taking stringent protocols to keep our staff and patients safe, allowing us to safely treat patients with COVID-19.

Contact us today to learn more about how a partnership with DispatchHealth can help your healthcare facility get through flu season this year unscathed. 

Sources

DispatchHealth relies only on authoritative sources, including medical associations, research institutions, and peer-reviewed medical studies. 

Sources referenced in this article: 

  1. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/hcp/infection-control-recommendations.html
  2. https://www.cdc.gov/flu/season/faq-flu-season-2020-2021.htm
  3. https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/science/coronavirus-vaccine-tracker.html
  4. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/need-extra-precautions/index.html
  5. https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/pandemic-guidance/index.html
  6. https://www.cdc.gov/flu/symptoms/flu-vs-covid19.htm

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