Lawrence Memorial Hospital is now requiring its staff to either get a flu vaccination or wear a surgical mask when dealing directly with patients.
Hospital officials say it's a policy recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and one that is based on research showing it helps reduce the spread of influenza. But it's one that has stirred controversy in other parts of the country, including Massachusetts where a statewide nurses union has openly opposed it.
"We did quite a bit of research," said Greg Windholz, director of LHM's Business Health Center. "We don't ever want to change a policy without, one, doing the research and, two, seeing what is going on in the area and what other hospitals are doing."
The CDC has long recommended that health care workers receive flu vaccinations each year. In 2009, it began recommending the use of face masks and respirators in certain settings in response to the outbreak of the H1N1 virus.
Since then, Windholz said, the policy has become a standard practice in most hospitals.
"That's pretty consistent," Windholz said. "There are hospitals that (require) mandatory flu vaccines. If they're not, they require flu vaccines or wearing a mask when doing direct patient care. It's pretty universal now, not only in this area but across the country."
Windholz said LMH formally adopted the policy last fall, and it went into effect recently with the first laboratory-confirmed cases of influenza in Douglas County. He said the policy is only in effect during an active flu outbreak, and it applies only to workers involved in direct patient care who come within six feet of a patient.
Last month, a similar policy adopted by many Massachusetts hospitals sparked opposition from the Massachusetts Nurses Association which posted a statement on its website.
"There is no medical justification for these policies, which are designed to bully nurses and staff to take the flu vaccine regardless of nurses’ medical and/or personal concerns," the statement read.
The new policies are coming in a year when the seasonal flu outbreak is proving to be more widespread than normal.
"It's certainly early, and seems to be more intense than where we were last year," said Charlie Hunt, state epidemiologist at the Kansas Department of Health and Environment.
Hunt said KDHE tracks flu outbreaks through a voluntary reporting system that involves a network of outpatient clinics that report patients complaining of flu-like symptoms. The trends are published on KDHE's Influenza Surveillance website, which shows that in the last week of December, more than 5 percent of all patient visits were related to flu symptoms.
That's far more than the peak of the seasonal flu outbreak in each of the last two years, peaks that normally don't occur until late February or early March.
"Generally speaking, when influenza activity starts to ramp up, it will stay elevated for several weeks, so I would anticipate that if this year's influenza behaves like typical influenza, then we're going to see elevated levels for a while," Hunt said.
The Lawrence-Douglas County Health Department announced Wednesday that it will offer the flu vaccine at a handful of community clinics in October.
It recommends that everyone ages 6 months and older get vaccinated to protect themselves and those around them. Each year, more than 30,000 people die from seasonal influenza complications, and more than 200,000 people are hospitalized.
The clinics will be in:
• Lawrence — noon to 1 p.m. Oct. 11, First Christian Church, 1000 Ky.
• Eudora — 3:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. Oct. 12, Eudora High School, 2203 Church St.
• Baldwin City — 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. Oct. 14, Baldwin Elementary School’s Primary Center, 500 Lawrence.
• Lecompton — 9:30 a.m. to 11 a.m. Oct. 18, Lecompton United Methodist Church, 401 Elmore.
• Stull — 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Oct. 18, Stull United Methodist Church, 251 N. 1600 Road.
The cost is $23 for children, 6 months to 35 months, and $28 for people 3 years and older. Clients eligible for Medicare Part-B, HealthWave, Medicaid and Blue Cross/Blue Shield can receive the flu shot at no charge if they bring their card at the time of vaccination.
The health department also provides the flu vaccine in its clinic, 200 Maine.
Also, the health department is organizing a drive-thru flu vaccine clinic that will be Oct. 8 at the Kansas University Park and Ride lots at the northwest corner of Iowa Street and Clinton Parkway.
The clinic will begin at 9 a.m. and end when all 500 doses of vaccine have been given. The drive-thru clinic is being held to test community public health emergency response plans, and so the vaccine will be provided at no charge.
For more information, visit www.ldchealth.org or call 843-0721.
A drive-thru flu vaccine clinic will be offered Oct. 8 at the Kansas University Park and Ride lots at the northwest corner of Iowa Street and Clinton Parkway.
The clinic will begin at 9 a.m. and end when all 500 doses of vaccine have been given.
The Lawrence-Douglas County Health Department is organizing the clinic and it is being held to test community public health emergency response plans. Sixteen other agencies will be helping with the clinic, including the Lawrence Police Department, Heartland Community Health Center and KU Hawks for Health.
Vaccine will be provided at no charge. Residents are encouraged to wear loose sleeves that roll up easily and to fill out a vaccine consent form beforehand to expedite the process. Forms are available at the health department’s website at www.ldchealth.org.
This is the second year the health department has organized a drive-thru event. Last year's event drew 402 people.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that everyone ages 6 months and older receive the flu vaccine.
That nasty seasonal flu bug has arrived in Kansas.
The Kansas Department of Health and Environment reported two confirmed cases on Monday. One is in northeast Kansas, but not Douglas County, and the other is in the southcentral portion of the state.
Dr. Jason Eberhart-Phillips, state health officer, encourages Kansans to get their yearly vaccination against the flu, if they haven’t already done so.
“Although flu activity is normally highest around February and influenza can continue to circulate through spring, the flu can be unpredictable. Now is an excellent time for everyone to get vaccinated to protect themselves, their loved ones and the community.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that people 6 months and older get a vaccination.
Flu is a serious disease that can lead to complications such as pneumonia and even death. Symptoms include: fever, headache, extreme tiredness, dry cough and muscle aches. Complications can include pneumonia, ear and sinus infections, dehydration, and worsening of other chronic conditions.
Every year, between 5 percent and 20 percent of the population gets the flu; more than 200,000 people are hospitalized from flu complications, and about 36,000 people die.
Officials with the Lawrence-Douglas County Health Department and Lawrence public schools say they haven’t seen any cases of flu — yet.
But, they encourage residents to take these preventative measures:
• Get a vaccination.
• Cover coughs and sneezes.
• Wash hands.
• Stay home when sick.
Seasonal flu vaccines are available at the Lawrence-Douglas County Health Department's clinic, 200 Maine.
The cost is $26 for anyone older than 3, and $22 for anyone between 3 and 6 months. But people aren’t turned away because of inability to pay. For more information, call the health department at 843-0721.
The vaccine is available at a number of Lawrence pharmacies and doctors’ offices as well.
The clinics are open to KU students, faculty, staff, retirees and affiliates. The cost is $15 for flu shots and $20.50 for the nasal spray mist.
Clinics will be offered:
• 10 a.m.-2 p.m., Tuesday, Kansas Union.
• 11 a.m.-3 p.m., Wednesday, Anschutz Library.
• 10 a.m.-2 p.m., Thursday, Strong Hall.
• 10 a.m.-2 p.m., Oct. 26, Burge Union.
• noon-2 p.m. Oct. 27, School of Pharmacy building.
• 10 a.m.-2 p.m., Oct. 28, the Underground, Wescoe Hall.
• noon-2 p.m., Nov. 2, Nichols Hall. • 11 a.m.-3 p.m., Nov. 3, Strong Hall.
• 10 a.m.-2 p.m., Nov. 4, Anschutz Library.
• 10 a.m.-2 p.m., Nov. 9, the Underground, Wescoe Hall.
• 11 a.m.-3 p.m., Nov. 10, Kansas Union.
• 2-6 p.m., Nov. 11, Watkins Memorial Health Center.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends everyone 6 months and older get a flu vaccine.
For more information, visit www.studenthealth.ku.edu.
The Lawrence-Douglas County Health Department is offering a drive-through flu shot clinic for the first time this year.
It will be from 9 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 16, in Kansas University’s Park and Ride Lot, which is on the northwest corner of Iowa Street and Clinton Parkway.
The drive-through clinic will serve as a public health emergency training exercise for agency staff, the Douglas County Medical Reserve Corps and other volunteers.
Flu vaccine will be provided to the public at no charge for their participation in the exercise. This year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that everyone 6 months and older receive the flu vaccine.
Participants are encouraged to fill out a flu vaccine consent form before the clinic, and they are available at the health department’s website at www.ldchealth.org.
For more information, call 843-0721.
You don’t even have to get out of your car this year to get a flu shot in Lawrence.
The Lawrence-Douglas County Health Department will be offering its first drive-through clinic on Saturday, Oct. 16, in Kansas University’s Park and Ride Lot, which is on the northwest corner of Iowa Street and Clinton Parkway.
Kim Ens, director of clinic services, announced the drive-through clinic during Monday night’s board meeting. She said a time had not been determined, but it would be held for at least a couple of hours.
Ens said the flu shots would be given for free because the clinic would be fulfilling a yearly exercise requirement for the Kansas Department of Health and Environment.
“This is going to be an experiment for us,” she said.
Health Department Director Dan Partridge said the department considered having a drive-through clinic last year during the H1N1 pandemic, but decided not to because it hadn’t done one before.
“Other county health departments have done drive-through clinics and had good success with them, so we wanted to learn ourselves how to do that,” he said.
The health department is collaborating with Kansas University and law enforcement. They are planning for about 500 participants.
Ens also said the flu vaccine is now available at the health department’s clinic, 200 Maine. It has received about 950 doses.
The cost is $26 for anyone older than 3, and $22 for anyone 3 and under. But people aren’t turned away because of inability to pay.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that anyone 6 months and older get a flu vaccine.
“We are just hoping that people take the opportunity to get it wherever they can,” Ens said.
The health department also released its schedule of community clinics. They will be:
• Lecompton — 9:30 a.m. to 11 a.m. Oct. 6, Lecompton United Methodist Church
• Eudora — 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. Oct. 11, Eudora Middle School
• Baldwin City — 9:30 a.m. to 11 a.m. Oct. 20, Baldwin Senior Center
The department also plans to have a clinic at LINK, but a date hasn’t been determined.
For more information, call the health department at 843-0721.