Ask the Doctor: Questions and Answers about the Flu Vaccine at The Hebrew Home
Will Hebrew Home residents be receiving the flu
vaccine this year?
Yes. Residents of The Hebrew Home are being vaccinated against influenza virus. At present, we are nearing completion of our seasonal flu vaccination program of all Hebrew Home residents, except those who are allergic to flu vaccine or have not consented to the vaccine. The 2013-2014 flu vaccine contains protection against three strains of flu.
How effective is the flu vaccine?
The flu vaccine is very effective in preventing the transmission of flu. Although vaccination may be less effective in the elderly population at preventing infection, it greatly reduces the severity of illness and the serious complications associated with influenza. The Home will be administering the flu vaccine to all residents.
What else can be done to prevent the spread of
flu in the nursing home?
Because flu is often spread to nursing home residents by staff and visitors, it is very important that both staff and visitors receive flu vaccines. The Home offers flu vaccinations to all staff members. If you are experiencing flu-like symptoms (e.g. cough, sore throat, runny nose, fever/chills, body aches, fatigue), you are strongly urged to avoid visiting the facility. Frequent handwashing is a very effective means of reducing the spread of infection.
How do the new NY State regulations affect me and
On July 31, 2013 the New York State Department of Health implemented a new regulation that requires unvaccinated staff members in the nursing home to wear a mask during times when influenza activity is considered prevalent.
a. The residents in the neighborhood where the case was confirmed must be restricted, in order to avoid spread of the virus elsewhere.
b. Unless contraindicated, all residents in the neighborhood are started on Tamiflu, an oral medication that fights the influenza virus. This adds an additional defense against the flu, even in those who have already received a flu shot. In addition, it is a treatment for those who have already contracted the flu.
Does TAMIFLU have side effects?
Yes. The most common side effects of TAMIFLU are nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal pain. There are many other less frequent side effects. Sometimes side effects are sufficiently severe that discontinuation of the drug becomes necessary.
If TAMIFLU has side effects, why is it given?
Although TAMIFLU may have side effects in some people who take it, it is given because it helps to prevent the spread of influenza, a respiratory infection associated with serious complications and death.
Can residents be given the nasal flu vaccine?
No. The nasal flu vaccine, FluMist, is only to be used for healthy people between the ages of 5-49. It is not considered effective for residents of long term care facilities.
Can residents of long term care facilities catch
the flu from someone who has taken FluMist?
No. The only people at risk for getting the flu from someone who has taken FluMist are those hospital patients in protective isolation rooms because of bone marrow transplants, due to severe suppression of the immune system. There are no known cases of flu in residents of long term care facilities contracted from contacts who have taken FluMist.
When does the flu season end?
Influenza activity often begins in late November and usually peaks in February, with new cases occurring as late as May. It is advisable to be vaccinated early in the season, so that your body has developed a strong immune response to fight the flu.
If you have any further questions, please contact Dr. Zachary Palace, Medical Director, at 718-581-1495.