Health care workers on the frontline in battle against influenza

Greater Trail health care workers will have to either wear a mask or get vaccinated themselves before giving the flu shot.

Greater Trail health care workers will again have to roll up their own sleeves this winter to protect their patients from this year’s strain of influenza.

Like last year, these professionals can choose to wear a mask or get vaccinated to ensure they’re not spreading germs to a patient with a weakened immune system. But this year’s potential provincial policy that would mandate this choice will likely come with disciplinary action.

“Our authority in B.C. has made it mandatory again this year for all workers to protect themselves and others around that they work with against the flu,” explained Sarah Jones, an Interior Health (IH) public health nurse who works in Trail and Castlegar. “It wasn’t attached with disciplinary action last year but this year they want to enforce it a little more.”

Jones said IH has hired human resources mangers to speak with employees about what masks are available and where they can get the flu shot. In addition to educating staff, there is a policy that would require employees to get vaccinated if there was an outbreak in the facility they worked in, or expect exclusion without pay.

Jones doesn’t see this as a problem as she believes “it’s our responsibility to protect those we’re working with.”

This is an opinion shared by Fruitvale physical therapist Kirby Epp, owner of Valhalla Physiotherapy.

He said it’s all about taking all precautions in protecting the public from illness and providing the best possible care to patients.

“As a health care practitioner, if you work closely with people who may be high risk for complications related to influenza, it is remarkably selfish and irresponsible to not get the flu shot,” he added. “I think it borders on negligence and malpractice.”

Amy Den Biesen, contact lens assistant at Trail Vision Care Clinic, is also in the position to get the flu shot or wear a mask.

She chose not to get vaccinated last year and years prior but said she will this year.

“There is no guarantee that getting the flu shot will save you from getting it,” said Den Biesen. “I will most likely get the shot this year just to save the fight from my employer.

“Also, I don’t want to freak out our patients by having to wear a mask.”

Jones will also get vaccinated again this year prior to administering the shots herself at upcoming clinics in Greater Trail, with the earliest kicking off at the Trail Memorial Centre’s gymnasium Nov. 4 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

At which time, children 2-17 years old will be given a nasal spray for the first time in the Kootenay Boundary. The live strain is considered more effective, though it’s not for those considered immunocompromised.

“It’s just to address their fear of needles so they thought a spray up the nose would be better and it is more expensive and harder to make because it’s live so they just wanted to keep it for those who have a fear of needles, being kids,” she explained.

The first clinic of the season usually attracts over 1,000 people considered at risk and therefore qualified for the free poke, said Jones. Those looking to avoid the rush can also opt to to go to a local participating pharmacy.

Jones expects Greater Trail residents will not have to be convinced to get the shot this season with the recent whooping cough surge.

In the late summer, IH warned of the highly contagious infection of the respiratory system, which can result in prolonged illness in infants and young children.

There was a total of 19 cases diagnosed from mid-June to mid-August (seven reported in Trail and 10 in Rossland), which is a bump up from the typical one or two cases expected for the same time of year.

“The pertussis outbreak in the Kootenay Boundary has kind of alerted people’s attention,” she explained. “I think with that on the Kootenay Boundary’s heightened radar, they’re knowing that we need to protect ourselves  . . .”

Beyond getting the flu shot, Jones recommends rigorous hand washing and asks those who are feeling ill to stay at home.

In comparison to a common cold, the flu comes with a high fever that can last up to three or four days accompanied by body aches.

Influenza can be a serious contagious disease spread by droplet transmission through close contact with an infected individual, according to IH’s website. Infected individuals are highly contagious and can transmit the flu for 24 hours before they are symptomatic.

 

FREE FLU SHOT AT:

Trail Memorial Centre gym

Monday, Nov. 4, 9 am – 4 p.m.

Wednesday, Nov. 13, 9 am – 4 p.m.

Rossland Miners’ Hall

Friday, Nov. 8, 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.

Fruitvale village office (basement)

Tuesday, Nov. 12, 11 a.m. – 4 p.m.

Trail Kiro Wellness Centre

Wednesday, Nov. 27, 9 a.m. – noon (by appointment)

Wednesday, Dec. 11, 9 a.m. – noon

Monday, Dec. 16, 1 p.m. – 4 p.m.

*****

Flu shots are provided free for:

• People 65 years and older and their caregivers/household contacts

• All children age six to 59 months of age

• Household contacts and caregivers of infants and children up to 59 months of age

• Aboriginal people

• Children and adults with chronic health conditions and their household contacts

• And more …to view a full list visit www.interiorhealth.ca/FluClinics

Bring your care card

 

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