Office of the Vice President for Global Communications

Monday, March 12, 2012

Flu season is here – still time to be vaccinated

This week, the U-M Health System’s Infection Control and Epidemiology Department declared that influenza has become widespread in the area.

University health officials say there still is time to be vaccinated against the flu. This year’s seasonal flu vaccine provides protection against three different strains of influenza virus, including the 2009 H1N1 virus.

UMHS again has joined health care institutions throughout the country in requiring its employees to receive the flu vaccination or wear a protective mask during flu season. This requirement applies to all members of the UMHS community who interact face-to-face with patients in any way or enter patient rooms for any reason.

Visitors to University Hospitals and Health Centers may notice health care providers or other hospital staff wearing protective masks. These employees have declined to receive the flu vaccine for health, religious or other reasons.

This flu vaccine policy is about putting patients first, and is intended to protect patients as well as employees from infection, university health officials say.

The most important factor in preventing flu outbreaks is annual vaccination.

Vaccination is particularly important for high-risk groups, including children, those 65 and older, pregnant women and anyone with an underlying condition that can weaken the immune system. The CDC recommends annual flu shots.

Frequent hand washing, covering your cough or sneezing into your elbow, and promptly disposing of used tissues also are important preventive practices during flu season.

For more information about preventing the spread of flu, go to www.cdc.gov/flu/protect/preventing.htm.

The seasonal flu vaccine remains available, and may be obtained at UMHS sites, the University Health Service, other primary care providers and some local pharmacies.

For Health System employees, free flu shots can be obtained at Occupational Health Services, located on the third floor of the Med Inn Building. OHS is open from 7 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.

For individuals who already see a U-M physician, nurse midwife or other provider, vaccination can be done during existing or new appointment.

For those outside the Health System, contact Michigan Visiting Nurses at 734-477-7229 or go to www.umvn.org.

Common flu symptoms include fever, chills, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle or body aches, headaches and fatigue. Some people may experience vomiting and diarrhea, though this is more common in children than adults.

For more information about the U-M Health System’s 2012 flu prevention program, go to www.med.umich.edu/u/flu or view the Questions & Answers page.

A flier explaining to patients and visitors why some healthcare providers may be wearing a mask is available at tinyurl.com/6ol8xad.