London Health Sciences Centre and St. Joseph’s Health Care London preventing the spread of influenza

October 15, 2013

London’s 2012-2013 influenza season saw 26 deaths, 297 hospitalizations and 472 laboratory-confirmed cases. This season, London Health Sciences Centre (LHSC) and St. Joseph’s Health Care London (St. Joseph’s) are increasing our efforts to protect our patients and residents from influenza.

Non-vaccinated staff and physicians will be required to be vaccinated or wear a procedure mask when providing patient care when influenza is confirmed to be circulating in the community.

“Evidence shows health care worker immunization reduces the risk of influenza outbreaks and significantly reduces morbidity and mortality among vulnerable patient populations,” says Dr. Michael John, medical director, infection prevention and control, LHSC and St. Joseph’s. “While getting immunized is the most effective way to protect those in our care, wearing a procedure mask is also an effective way to reduce the spread of influenza at the source by capturing the majority of large respiratory droplets, the vehicle by which influenza is spread.”

The change to the staff influenza immunization policies at both organizations follows the precedence set by physicians last year when non-vaccinated physicians were required to wear a procedure mask when influenza was circulating.

“We have a responsibility to keep our patients, residents and community safe from the spread of influenza,” continues Dr. John. “This new policy is only one part of a broader influenza immunization campaign at each organization that provides education about the efficacy and safety of the vaccine, as well as the impact and importance of healthcare worker vaccination on patient safety.”

Due to the high use of common areas by patients at St. Joseph’s, all non-vaccinated staff, physicians and visitors are required to wear a procedure mask in common areas when influenza is circulating in the community as an additional measure. Visitors and patients are also encouraged to clean their hands when entering, leaving and walking through different areas of the hospitals.

Visitors will also be asked to help reduce the spread of influenza at both organizations. Non-vaccinated visitors will be asked to wear a mask when influenza is circulating in the community. Proof of vaccination will not be required. Visitors will be provided with procedure masks.

This new policy builds on the success of the influenza immunization programs last year that saw LHSC and St. Joseph’s staff rates of influenza immunization at 57 per cent. The physician immunization rate at both organizations was 82 per cent.