Influenza-infected healthcare workers can spread the virus to vulnerable patients in their care. Healthcare workers -- especially nurses in hospitals, physician offices, long term care facilities and community settings such as schools -- are urged to visit http://www.nursingworld.org to learn more about how they can protect themselves, their patients and family members against the virus.
"Based on documented history of other years, nurses and other healthcare workers have a low rate of being vaccinated against annual influenza only 36 percent of healthcare workers receive influenza vaccination each year, according to the CDC," said Barbara A. Blakeney, MS, RN, president of the American Nurses Association. "The ANA hopes this campaign will encourage nurses and all healthcare workers -- to get vaccinated this season and remind them of their responsibility to keep themselves healthy, especially given their direct contact with patients who may be at high risk for complications of influenza. There is also a role for employers and policymakers to take action to support achieving this goal."
Influenza and influenza-related complications kill more people than all other vaccine-preventable illnesses combined. Influenza affects 5 percent to 20 percent of the total U.S. population during each influenza season. Between 1990 and 1999, approximately 36,000 people died in the United States each year from complications of influenza infection; more than 90 percent of these deaths occurred in persons 65 years of age and older. Influenza can reach epidemic levels and poses a significant threat to public health, particularly among the nation's oldest and youngest citizens. Vaccination is the primary method for preventing influenza and its severe complications.
Nearly all registered nurses surveyed (97 percent) agree that one healthcare worker infected with influenza in a health care setting puts all patients and co-workers at risk. The survey reveals 95 percent of nurses also agree that all healthcare workers should get vaccinated against influenza each year, however only 5 percent of nurses polled believe that all of their co-workers received an influenza vaccination last year. More than half of nurses polled consider themselves extremely or very susceptible to influenza this coming season and almost all (95 percent) nurses agree influenza vaccination is critical in reducing the risk of potential influenza epidemics. Nurses polled are cognizant of the complications that may arise as the result of influenza. However, many (77 percent) nurses polled who are aware that influenza can be deadly underestimate the number of deaths that occur as a result of the disease each year, which is an average of 36,000.
"ANA is deeply committed to protecting nurses, their patients and their families against influenza," continued Blakeney. "In fact, we recently revised our organization's position to stress the importance of universal vaccination among healthcare workers and we support the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases' position regarding the importance of improving vaccination rates among healthcare workers."
In addition to the public health threat influenza poses, the disease has economic repercussions. More than 200,000 influenza-related hospitalizations occurred per year in the United States between 1979 and 2001. Influenza epidemics can have a significant impact on the U.S. economy, as influenza infection results in an average of 2.8 lost workdays per episode, or $398 in lost wages for the average worker. Recent estimates put the cost of influenza epidemics to the economy at $71 billion to $167 billion per year.
Source: American Nurses Association