Good riddance to the flu

The flu season is officially over! And thank goodness because this was a pretty intense and lengthy season.

As of yesterday afternoon, April 12, the Health Care Worker Influenza Protection Policy is no longer in effect.

Peak influenza activity has passed in B.C., and the Provincial Health Officer has announced the end of the flu policy application period. This means that staff, physicians and volunteers who have not received the influenza vaccine are no longer expected to wear masks in patient care areas.

Viruses are ever-present
Seasonal, low level influenza activity remains active in the community and localized influenza outbreaks are still being reported in facilities; in these events, the Staff Influenza Outbreak Policy applies, and outbreak precautions include mask-wearing for unimmunized employees for the duration of the outbreak.

Frequent handwashing remains an important message for all health care workers and those staff caring for patients with respiratory illness are reminded to use appropriate personal protective equipment (mask, gloves etc).

What we saw
Across BC, Influenza B and A(H3N2) were the more dominant strains. In seniors 65 and older more than half of cases were A(H3N2), yet in children and adults the majority of cases were Influenza B. The epidemic peak occurred in early-to-mid January.

Policy compliance rates
16,285 VCH staff (86%) reported that they were immunized or wore a mask this flu season. This includes 77% who were immunized, while the remaining wore a mask. As for medical staff, 92% reported that they were immunized or wore a mask. This includes 88% who were immunized, while the remaining wore a mask.

Vaccine effectiveness
Mid-season analysis from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control indicate that this year’s vaccine provided moderately good protection against influenza B at 43% effectiveness. For influenza A, vaccine effectiveness was reported to be 25% for H3N2 and 67% for H1N1.

Thank you for doing your part
Thanks to all of you who participated in this important patient safety initiative. A special thank you to our 250 Peer Immunizers across VCH for providing a convenient opportunity for more than 4,000 of you to be immunized at work.

Our annual flu campaign would not be possible without your continued participation, initiative and support. Again, thank you for your ongoing commitment to protecting our patients from the flu.

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