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Date: 22 January 2020
Hospital urges flu vaccinations after outbreak
Story posted/last updated: 19 December 2019
A hospital ward for older people has been affected by an outbreak of flu with 13 patients infected.
The ward at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham (QEHB) was temporarily unable to accept new patients as staff carefully managed the outbreak after seeing the first patients of the season hospitalised with flu. Patients affected on the ward were likely to have caught this from other patients as influenza is an airborne virus.
Crucially, the ward saw no staff infected as all members of staff on the ward had received the flu vaccination, but the Trust that runs QEHB has warned that rates of the winter virus appear to be intensifying earlier than usual this season.
With GPs in the community reporting a 24% rise in cases of patients with flu-like symptoms according to Public Health England, local hospitals are urging those in at-risk groups*, carers and all healthcare workers across Birmingham and Solihull to have the flu vaccination - not only for their own benefit, but to avoid the possibility of severe disruption in the NHS due to any further outbreak.
Dr Mark Garvey, Deputy Director of Infection Prevention and Control at University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust (UHB), explains:
“Over 10,000 front line staff across University Hospitals Birmingham have received the vaccination so far however the NHS is under immense and increasing pressure this winter and a major flu outbreak could be devastating for the services we work hard to provide to the people of Birmingham and Solihull.
“The Department of Health and Social Care has also published an alert highlighting an increase of influenza cases in the community therefore from a clinical perspective, doctors are advised to consider prescribing antiviral medicines for patients whose illness is confirmed or suspected to be influenza.”
Amy Wallett, Lead Nurse for Infection Prevention and Control at the QEHB said:
“Staff have been working hard to tackle and contain an outbreak of influenza on a ward for older patients at the QEHB. Flu can and does lead to pneumonia and sepsis in not only patients who are already vulnerable to infection, but those who are normally very fit and healthy.
“Fortunately a key part of being able to contain the outbreak in this case is that all patient-facing ward staff had received the flu vaccination which does reduce the risk of passing the virus on to other patients and colleagues.
“Patients rely on their nurses, doctors and healthcare support workers to minimise the impact of any infection, the flu vaccination is a vital part of that plan and I urge any healthcare worker, carer or member of the public in at-risk groups to have the vaccination now to protect ourselves and all those we care for.”
While people aged over 65, young children, pregnant women and those who have underlying medical conditions such as heart disease, kidney disease, COPD, diabetes or HIV are particularly encouraged to get the flu vaccination, for the first time at UHB, as part of a pilot; inpatients who have not been able to get the vaccination outside of hospital (and who are over 65, have cancer, who are in an intensive care unit or are on dialysis for kidney failure at any UHB hospital), will be offered the flu vaccination.
Ms Wallett added:
“We want to avoid any hugely disruptive outbreak for the NHS at such a challenging time, so with this pilot we’re not taking any chances of doing so by offering vulnerable and very sick patients the vaccination – we hope this will help to minimise the risk of flu to them, other patients and our staff.”
*people with heart/kidney/lung diseases, HIV, diabetes, neurological conditions or other long-term health complaints.
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