This column is a new forum for Children's Hospital Boston employees to get answers to questions they have about the hospital. If you have a question about any aspect of the hospital, send it to firstname.lastname@example.org. We'll ask the appropriate person to answer the most commonly asked questions and print their responses. (You can submit questions anonymously.)
Question: "Why does Children's require me to get a flu shot? I never see patients."
Answer: Even if you don't take care of patients, you may be in contact with others who do, or you may be in close contact with patients or visitors in your travels throughout the hospital. The flu virus is spread mainly from person to person when people with the flu cough or sneeze, but sometimes you become infected by touching something that has flu viruses on it and then touching your mouth or nose. Most adults can infect others beginning one day before symptoms develop and up to five days after becoming sick. That means that you can pass the flu on to someone else before you know you're sick.
So you want to get the flu vaccine not only to avoid getting the illness yourself, but also to avoid spreading it to others—your coworkers, family or those who might be in contact with patients. It's good to remember that while the flu might put you out of work for a couple of weeks, it can be devastating to our fragile patients.
The single best way to protect against the flu is to get vaccinated each year. The vaccine offers 70 to 90 percent protection against the influenza viruses that are contained in the vaccine (those strains that are expected to hit our area). October or November is the best time to get vaccinated, but doing it in December (and later) still provides protection, as flu season normally peaks in January, or later.
The free vaccine will be offered to all employees at Occupational Health Services at 333 Longwood Ave. during the walk-in immunization clinic hours posted on the Web. Call us at ext. 5-7580 for an appointment if those times aren't convenient. For more information, visit the Centers for Disease Control's Website at www.cdc.gov.
Thanks for asking!
Diana Seufert, MSN, RN, NP
Occupational Health Service