Flu season is once again upon us, and SNF staff need to take precautionary measures to protect the frail residents in their care. About 19 million Americans have contracted the flu so far this season, leading to an approximate 12,000 to 30,000 deaths, according to a recent CDC report. The CDC recommends that SNFs take the following precautions to mitigate the risk of an outbreak in their facility:
- Influenza vaccine – If possible, all residents and employees should receive the flu shot prior to flu season
- Surveillance – Active daily surveillance should take place to monitor all staff, residents, and visitors to the facility who may be exhibiting any illness symptoms. Ill visitors should be excluded from the facility until their illness is cured.
- Testing – Influenza testing should take place any time a resident exhibits acute symptoms
- Exercise standard and droplet measures: Throughout flu season, standard measures should be applied to all within the facility, and droplet measures should be applied to any resident with suspected or confirmed influenza.
Examples of standard precautions include:
- Wearing gloves if hand contact with respiratory secretions or potentially contaminated surfaces is anticipated.
- Wearing a gown if soiling of clothes with a resident’s respiratory secretions is anticipated.
- Changing gloves and gowns after each resident encounter and performing hand hygiene
- Perform hand hygiene before and after touching the resident, after touching the resident’s environment, or after touching the resident’s respiratory secretions, whether or not gloves are worn. Gloves do not replace the need for performing hand hygiene.
Examples of Droplet Precautions include:
- Placing ill residents in a private room. If a private room is not available, place (cohort) residents suspected of having influenza residents with one another;
- Wear a facemask (e.g., surgical or procedure mask) upon entering the resident’s room. Remove the facemask when leaving the resident’s room and dispose of the facemask in a waste container.
- If resident movement or transport is necessary, have the resident wear a facemask (e.g., surgical or procedure mask), if possible.
- Communicate information about patients with suspected, probable, or confirmed influenza to appropriate healthcare personnel before transferring them to other departments.