As flu season hits peak, free vaccinations still available for employees
January 12, 2011
As the area enters the height of flu season, state health officials reported last week that a North Carolina teen who didn’t receive a flu shot was the state’s first fatality of the flu season.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the southeast region of the country – which includes North Carolina – saw an “elevated” level of flu the final week of December. The CDC also declared flu to be “widespread” throughout the state as reported visits to doctors for flu-like illnesses increased.
Among the tips for fighting flu is getting a flu shot. Faculty and staff can still receive a free vaccination at Duke to protect themselves against the seasonal virus, and students can also receive a free shot by scheduling an appointment with the Student Health Center, which has administered more than 3,200 vaccinations this season.
“It’s not too late to get vaccinated to interrupt the transmission of influenza among your family, community and work group,” said Dr. George Jackson, director of Employee Occupational Health and Wellness (EOHW).
Vaccinations are available between 7:30 a.m. and 4 p.m. Monday to Friday, with the exception of noon to 2 p.m. Wednesdays in the Employee Occupational Health and Wellness office on the basement level of the Red Zone of Duke Hospital South. No appointment is necessary.
Entering the high point of influenza season, the occupational health and wellness office has had few reported cases of the flu. Duke has distributed more than 19,000 doses of the seasonal flu vaccine to faculty, staff, volunteers, retirees, students and affiliates since September. That total is higher than the roughly 16,000 administered to employees during the 2009 flu season. This year's vaccine is one shot and protects against three different flu viruses, including the H1N1 virus that caused so much illness last year. In addition to a shot, proper health techniques like washing hands can help ward off illness.
Dr. Cameron Wolfe, infectious disease physician with the Duke Preparedness and Response Center, said it's especially important for faculty and staff to get a shot if they're pregnant, have chronic illnesses or are over age 65. Wolfe added that a vaccine is also recommended for Health System employees who interact with patients. So far, 5,480 employees in the Duke Hospital have received a shot.
“Similar to the pattern seen last year, healthy individuals are becoming critically ill from influenza this year,” Wolfe said. “Everyone is at risk and should avail themselves of the protection provided by vaccination. The best way to prevent influenza is by getting the flu vaccine every year.”