The flu is an ever changing and highly contagious virus that can cause mild to severe illnesses and, in the most unfortunate cases, may even lead to death.
Seniors, young children and patients with pre-existing health conditions are at the highest risk for serious flu complications, and those are the very patients most often in health care facilities. Each year, more than 200,000 people are hospitalized for influenza (flu) complications.
People with the flu can spread it to others up to about six feet away and studies have shown that flu viruses are spread mainly by droplets made when people cough, sneeze or talk.
Patients and health care workers are most susceptible to transmission of the flu in busy places where there are many sick people, such as in health care facilities. As health care professionals dedicated to minimizing health threats, we are pleased to support a legislative proposal currently being considered in Sacramento (SB1318 by Sen. Lois Wolk) that would address this problem by requiring health care workers in patient care areas to receive a flu vaccine or wear a mask. Repeated studies have indicated that the single best way to prevent the flu is to get the vaccine each season (see www.cdc.gov/flu/keyfacts.htm). SB1318 will help promote that practice.
Some nearby counties, including Sacramento, Yolo, and San Francisco have gone above and beyond and instituted
Furthermore, hospitals across the state have also adopted similar rules; those that have are on record with the highest vaccine compliance rates.
SB1318 will also help control rising health care costs. In one example of an influenza outbreak where 23 percent of staff became ill, the outbreak reportedly resulted in 14 person-days of sick leave, postponement of eight scheduled admissions, suspension of emergency admissions for 11 days and an average cost per patient of $3,798. The total cost of the outbreak was $34,179.
Additionally, the American Journal of Public Health contained a study showing that vaccinating health care workers and reducing absenteeism can save employers $2.58 for every dollar invested in an influenza vaccination program.
As physicians, we make it a priority to keep our patients safe and in good health. SB1318 promotes good public health.
Dr. Ahmed Sadiq is president of the Alameda-Contra Costa Medical Association