Hospital employees urged to get flu vaccinations

Thursday, September 18, 2008 | 7:31 p.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — The flu can bring headaches, high fever, body aches and a dry cough to the people it infects. To help protect patients, hospitals around Boone County are recommending that their employees get vaccinated for the flu season.

The Barnes-Jewish Christian Health System, with which Boone Hospital Center is affiliated, requires that all of its employees get the vaccine, said Kyle Scheafer, director of marketing for Boone Health Center. Boone Hospital Center is vaccinating its employees free of charge.

"All staff members are required to get it. Hospital employees can opt out if they have a medical condition or religious restriction," Scheafer said. "The BJC feels strongly everybody gets it, because even if you don't have symptoms, you can still spread it."

Adults can pass the virus on before symptoms develop and for up to five days after the symptoms appear, and children can pass on the virus for up to ten days, according to a Boone Hospital Center news release. According the the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 200,000 people are hospitalized and 36,000 die from influenza-related complications each year. It's the highest death rate for any disease with a preventative vaccine.

The Joint Commission, which licenses hospitals, requires that hospitals make the flu vaccine available to employees but does not require that employees get it, said Dave Dillon, of the Missouri Hospital Association. University Hospital is offering the vaccine to all of its employees free of charge.

"We recommend employees get it every year, because when you have a staff that works directly with patient care, the flu shot is important to protect from getting it and passing it on," said Matt Splett, media relations coordinator for University Hospital. "It is a protective measure."

University Hospital will begin offering the vaccine to its employees at the end of October, and Boone Health Center will begin immunizations Oct. 15.


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