Flu season is roughly from December to March and is quickly approaching once again. Last year saw some of the most severe seasons in history, and there is a chance this year we may also see an increase in infections. Most winter illnesses are irritating but not too troublesome, however for those in care homes they are an increasingly serious issue. Therefore, it’s vital to know exactly how to deal with them.
Preparation for the flu
Although there are medicines that can alleviate the symptoms of the flu, there is no cure. However, to significantly reduce the chances of catching the disease, there is a flu vaccine available. The vaccine must be administered yearly and provides protection for the whole of that year’s flu season. Remember that even if you’ve already had the flu that does not make you immune, as several different viruses can cause it. Having natural immunity to one type of the infection will not protect you from the other versions of it.
Flu can complicate existing medical conditions, meaning over 65s are at more risk than most so it’s essential to make sure they are vaccinated. Usually, the vaccine is administered on pharmacy premises, but vaccinations can also be carried out in care homes provided as long as they follow the correct guidelines. Taking steps to minimise the chance of infection will also help, such as washing hands or sanitising commonly touched areas.
The National Flu Immunisation program is a government-funded public health intervention, aimed at vaccinating the entire country against flu, and so far it has saved many lives each year. The vaccine is harmless and cannot give you flu, making it a safe and effective defence against the disease.
The official process
At Better Healthcare, our employees are always kept up-to-date on the needs of their patients, and the flu is no different. Before your nurse can administer a vaccine, the following will have occurred:
- All healthcare professionals advising on immunisation or administering vaccines will have received specific training in immunisation, including the recognition and treatment of anaphylaxis. This is maintained through regular training as per usual.
- The nurse giving the vaccination will have received training in the management of anaphylaxis and will have immediate access to appropriate equipment. Adrenaline (epinephrine) will always be immediately available.
- All health professionals responsible for immunisation will have a protocol and be familiar with techniques for resuscitation of a patient with anaphylaxis. In addition, an anaphylaxis pack will always be available whenever vaccines are given.
- If you have refused, then that decision will be legally binding provided it remains valid and applicable to the circumstances. Your choice matters.
The anaphylaxis packs will contain two ampoules of adrenaline, and their contents will be checked regularly to ensure they are correct and in date, according to the NHS guidelines.
The vaccine substantially reduces the risk of contracting flu, but it doesn’t eliminate it entirely. This is why our carers are trained to minimise the risk of contracting flu, both for themselves and their clients. This can (and often does) include:
- Getting the vaccine themselves.
- Keeping the number of staff attending the home to a minimum.
- Encouraging visitors to be kept to a minimum and making sure they are traceable.
- Keeping their uniforms clean and germ-free.
- Cleaning areas exposed to direct contact, such as table tops and food preparation areas. They will also be clear on the types of products and concentrations to use.
If necessary, using masks and other protective equipment to prevent cross-contamination.
Influenza is not the only disease to be on the lookout for this Winter, though it is by far the most common. Cases of various gastrointestinal infections such as norovirus also increase during the winter months and precautions are taken against them. Health Protection team telephone and fax numbers are displayed prominently where all staff can access them, and all staff are aware of the action that needs to be taken upon identifying an outbreak of such an illness. Staff are also trained in measures to detect and prevent outbreaks:
- Staff have an outbreak control plan and details of who to contact if they suspect an outbreak, as well as knowing what immediate actions must be taken.
- They check supplies of personal protective equipment (PPE) and ensure there is enough to cope with an outbreak of infectious illness.
- They ensure there is a supply of a chlorine releasing agent, such as bleach, available at all times. They are also trained in the use and storage of these materials.
They maintain supplies of liquid soap and paper towels, enough to deal with an outbreak, as well as supplying paper tissues for resident use.
You deserve Better
It’s easy to underestimate the impact of the flu, but at Better Healthcare we take it seriously. All of our employees are trained to reduce or negate the risks associated with this illness, letting you rest easy. Your health is our concern, and with us you needn’t worry about it.
To find out more get in touch on 0800 668 1234.