**Editor’s Note: This is part of an informational series called Notes from the Nurse to increase awareness and understanding of health or clinical issues that could impact our clients and their families.
Flu season is quickly approaching, and health care professionals are continuing to manage the novel coronavirus or COVID-19. This convergence of two very contagious respiratory diseases is worrisome, especially among vulnerable populations, like those served by home care.
Last year’s flu season sickened tens of millions and had tens of thousands of deaths. According to the CDC, in 2019 the flu and other causes of pneumonia represent the ninth leading cause of death in the United States.
I can’t stress it enough: to protect yourself from the flu it’s important to socially distance, wash or sanitize hands, wear a mask when outside the home and disinfect surfaces.
With these scary thoughts, is there any hope or good news?
Well, except for ensuring you get the flu vaccine, dealing with the coronavirus this spring and summer was training us for this health hurdle. The same things you have been doing to protect you and your family from COVID-19 will also protect you from the flu: hygiene, masks, and social distancing.
Make sure you wash your hands with soap and warm water regularly, especially when entering a home. Develop the habit of handwashing as soon as you walk through the door. Use hand sanitizer when washing isn’t possible.
Cleaning and disinfection of common surfaces, such as light switches, toilet handles and computer keyboards, go a long way to protecting yourself and others. Don’t forget to wipe down the cell phone at least once a day—just think about how many times a day you touch it or put it down on something and then make a call.
Wear a mask when around others. It helps prevent the spread of droplets that contain the virus from sneezes, coughs and talking. Masks can be as simple as the blue disposable ones to custom homemade fabric masks to N95, which are expensive and difficult to find. The most important thing about masks is ensuring the correct fit. It should be snug around the face, under the chin and across the bridge of the nose.
Nowadays keeping your personal space, or social distance, is key. Do not be afraid to take a step back from someone if they are too close for your comfort. Social distancing as the first consideration that could determine the severity of the upcoming 2020 flu season and will help fight both viruses.
The flu shot is also essential, especially for the elderly, immunocompromised and those with underlying conditions.
Also, get your seasonal flu shot early for maximum effectiveness. This year we should not see shortages since manufacturers have already begun manufacturing extra vaccine and shipping doses for distribution, anticipating higher than usual demand. The Centers for Disease Control has purchased seven million doses for adult vaccination, about 14 times the agency’s normal purchase, according to the Washington Post.
For our clients, we recommend they limit the number of people visiting to reduce the risk of exposure from either virus. If an infection occurs, contact tracing by everyone will be essential to track and reduce spread.
We keep in regular contact with all our caregivers to see if everyone is feeling well and if any issues develop. Personal protective equipment (PPE) is also provided to caregivers so they can continue to care for our clients safely.
Also, we are reminding all our caregivers of infection control protocols and reviewing policies and procedures. Caregivers will continue to monitor patients for any obvious symptoms of illness. They will notify me of any changes in client health and we will work with the family to address and issues.
Yours in good health,
Stephen Hoelle, RN-BC, Director of Nursing, Assisting Hands Home Care