Flu Prevention for ED Docs: Guardians of the Sick

“California flu season could be one of the worst in a decade” — LA Times

“U.S. Flu Season May be Especially Bad for 2017 and 2018” — Time

“2017/2018 flu season strongest since 2009” — CDC

Emergency Room physicians know all too well the true depth of these headlines, seeing patients come in day after day with one of the most debilitating flu bugs in years. 

In recent reports on the U.S. Outpatient Influenza-like Illness Surveillance Network, 5.8% of visits were due to flu-like illness.

Flu Prevention For ED Docs: Guardians Of The Sick

So, what are some measures emergency docs can take to prevent themselves from getting, or spreading, disease? Let’s take a look at some healthy reminders that we can all focus on this flu season.

Flu Prevention For Healthcare Practitioners

The flu can take a huge toll on the American public, causing millions of illnesses, 1,000s of hospitalizations, and even death.

The CDC estimates that previous prevention measures in the 2015/2016 season curbed over 5 million flu illnesses, 2.5 million flu-related medical visits, and 71,000 hospitalizations.

Here’s what the CDC recommends along with some practical advice.

Get Vaccinated And Recommend Vaccines

It is recommended that physicians get vaccinated before the onset of flu activity within their communities. As this time has already past, it is still not too late to get vaccinated for the flu.

For your patients, make it a habit to recommend vaccinations, regardless of the symptoms they come in with. If they are already in your care, that may be a perfect time to coordinate a flu vaccine and get them protected.

In some locales the flu may not strike until as late as February or March, but your efforts to contribute to vaccinations are nonetheless recommended all year long. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have worked with manufacturers to produce between 151 million and 166 million doses of injectable vaccine for the 2017/2018 flu season, which should provide an ample supply nationwide.

If you need to brush up on some of your vaccine protocols, check out this link or refer to this handy infographic:

Flu Prevention For ED Docs: Guardians Of The Sick


Cover Your Cough And Sneeze The Right Way

Stopping the spread of germs before they start is better than reactive treatments. As a reminder, be sure to cover your mouth and nose with a tissuewhen you cough or sneeze. Immediately discard the tissue and wash your hands with soap for 20 seconds. If you can’t make it to the sink, carrying a alcohol-based hand rub is always a good idea.

If you don’t have a tissue handy, cough or sneeze directly into your elbow and not your hands.

Some more obvious, but commonly disregarded suggestions, are to:

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick (yes we know this is part of your job!)
  • Stay at home when sick to avoid spreading the flu
  • Clean and disinfect around the home and at work spaces
  • Gets lots of sleep, plenty of exercise, and drink lots of water

Identify Patients With Flu Symptoms Early

As a physician, you should be able to identify flu symptoms (or patients) early. Hospital staff should be proactive about sharing information about patients to coworkers and follow the appropriate precautions (such as putting a mask on the patient) to help prevent transmission.

People that are 65 or older; people that have asthma, diabetes, or heart disease; pregnant women; and young children are at a higher risk of developing flu-related complications.

Flu Prevention For ED Docs: Guardians Of The Sick


Whereas sneezing, stuffy nose, and sore throat are all common to the flu and the cold, fever, chills, or headache generally are not symptoms of the common cold. Fever, fatigue, and chest pain are common signs your patient may have the flu.

You CAN Prevent The Flu

The flu often comes on abruptly and without warning. However, you can do your part to prevent it from spreading with the above suggestions. While your precautions may only make the illness milder, they will help reduce ICU admissions, hospital stay duration, and even death.









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