As flu season approaches, the Department of Health is kicking off an influenza educational campaign aimed at getting more health care workers vaccinated against this serious and potentially fatal illness.

LDH will promote this campaign to hospitals around the state, encouraging workers at these facilities to get their flu shots to prevent them from becoming ill and possibly spreading the flu to their patients.

“Research shows us that health care workers are at an increased risk for catching the flu and also are more likely to transmit the flu to others,” said LDH Secretary Dr. Fred Cerise. “Despite this, only about 36 percent of health care workers get a flu vaccine each year. We are hoping this campaign will remind everyone in the health care industry that as people who work to protect the public’s health, we can take a key step in preventing the spread of this disease.”

LDH sent letters in October outlining this campaign, which health officials hope will become an annual event, to hospital administrators, encouraging their organization’s participation.

“It is our responsibility as health care providers to do all that we can to prevent an influenza outbreak, especially during this critical time for our state, when our health care resources already are stretched thin because of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita,” Dr. Cerise said.

Cerise added that in addition to the health benefit, there also is a benefit to employers in having their employees vaccinated against the flu, since immunization reduces workplace absenteeism during the flu season. Research shows that for each employee vaccinated, a health care institution saves between $47 and $117 dollars per year per employee. These savings accounts for sick benefits paid and time off from work that is saved when employees are well.

LDH and the Louisiana Hospital Association will be sending information and educational materials to infectious control practitioners at hospitals statewide to explain the campaign and to encourage workers to begin getting their vaccinations.

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