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Hand Hygiene, Infection Prevention and Food Safety Blog

4 Ways To Give Flu The Cold Shoulder This Winter

 

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Winter is just around the corner – and with it comes flu season, meaning potential bad news for healthcare facilities. Minor illnesses are already a major staffing issue for hospitals – they cause an annual average loss of 4.3 working days per person[1] – and they are especially problematic at a time of year when admissions see a major increase. However, this year could prove to be even worse…

 

The NHS fears that this winter could bring the worst flu season in history, based on infection rates across Australia doubling since last year[2]. It might not seem a big deal to the UK, but the antipodean nations are often seen as an effective forecast for how much of an epidemic we can expect to face.

 

4 top tips for flu prevention

 

Healthcare administrators and workers everywhere need to be ready for this, so here are our top tips for avoiding the flu this winter:

 

1. Take Vitamin D supplements


A recent review of existing research suggested that supplementing food with vitamin D would prevent millions of cold and flu cases, and possibly save lives[3].

It is still an ongoing debate among experts, but they all agree with the latest guidelines for vitamin D that everyone, including healthcare workers, should consider taking supplements during the winter months to boost their chances of avoiding cold and flu viruses.

 

2. Take extra precautions around flu sufferers


Healthcare staff will struggle to avoid flu sufferers (especially when treating them), so they have to be even more vigilant when coming into contact with them. Flu-containing particles exhaled by a sick person can travel at least six feet[4], which puts healthcare workers and patients at risk of infection across a facility.

 

Even worse is the fact that roughly 50% of hospital staff still go to work when they have a flu-like illness[5]. This means that healthcare facilities have to be proactive in their approach to flu season – doing as much as they can to make use of the following two tips.

 

3. Get a flu vaccination

 

For many, being vaccinated against different strains of flu each winter can prove an effective way to avoid falling ill. In fact, the number of flu cases during winter 2016/17 was reduced by 40% thanks to effective vaccination[6].

 

The flu vaccine is a useful way to protect healthcare workers from illness over the winter – and protect facilities from the stress that results from sick days. Given their environment, it is more than worth providing a free flu vaccination service for healthcare workers (it is certainly how we prefer to look after our employees at Deb).

 

4. Clean and sanitise your hands regularly


People don’t realise just how regularly they touch their eyes, nose and mouth without even noticing it. Scarily, this is often how germs enter the body and how people become sick, with 80% of infections and viruses passed on by contact with the hands [7].

 

Handwashing is critically important in healthcare facilities – especially after using the washroom or handling food. It reduces respiratory illnesses, like colds, by up to a fifth[8], and this can have a massive impact on infection prevention – protecting patients and their carers alike.

 

Providing the right cleansing and sanitising products around the workplace can play a major role in reducing the rate of illness among healthcare workers and patients – keeping everyone happy and healthy.

 

Prepare to prevent a healthcare crisis

 

If a flu epidemic does hit the UK this winter, it will be a challenge that every healthcare facility has to face. However, by following the four tips above, organisations can maximise the chances of keeping their people fighting fit through flu season.

 

Find out more about how handwashing (and using the correct technique) can remove germs from the hands and reduce the chances of patients and their carers picking up an illness.

 

Sources

  1. https://www.ons.gov.uk/news/news/totalof137millionworkingdayslosttosicknessandinjuryin2016
  2. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/09/12/nhs-fears-worst-flu-season-history/
  3. http://www.bmj.com/content/356/bmj.i6583
  4. https://www.livescience.com/26753-flu-virus-travel-six-feet.html
  5. http://www.ajicjournal.org/article/S0196-6553(17)30300-0/fulltext
  6. https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/641162/Influenza_vaccine_effectiveness_in_primary_care_1617_final.pdf
  7. Source: US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
  8. https://www.cdc.gov/handwashing/why-handwashing.html

 

About the Author

 

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Martyn Hodgkinson is the Marketing Manager – Healthcare for Deb in the UK & Ireland.

 

Martyn is focused on raising awareness of the importance of hand hygiene best practice in the Healthcare environment to prevent the spread of infections and improve skin health.

 

Topics: Influenza, Infection Prevention in Healthcare, Infection prevention, flu season

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