A senior care community in the Harrisburg area of Pennsylvania plans to adopt a somewhat drastic policy next year to protect its frail residents from a potentially-deadly sickness: Starting next year, employees must either get a flu shot, or be fired, reports The Patriot-News.
Right now at Masonic Villages in Elizabethtown, Pa., a senior campus providing personal care and skilled nursing to about 560 residents, everyone from visitors to employees are required to wear a face mask if they haven’t gotten a flu shot.
There will be exceptions for those with a history of allergic reactions to the vaccine, or those who can’t get it for religious reasons, says the article, but the upcoming rule is one tactic the senior care organization is employing to deflect the impact of the flu season, which got off to an “early start” both locally in Pennsylvania and nationally.
“The flu definitely on an upswing right now,” Joyce Heisey, director of nursing at Masonic Villages, told The Patriot-News. While it’s not generally considered a deadly illness, the flu can be especially dangerous for seniors aged 65 and older, because they’re at greater risk of serious complications compared to young, healthy adults, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Last week, the Pennsylvania Department of Health reported nearly 3,200 confirmed cases of the flu reported the week ending Dec. 29, says the article—nearly 1,000 more than the previous week and representing only a fraction of the actual number of cases, as most go unconfirmed.
That week, there were at least three flu-related deaths in the state.
While the flu vaccine will become mandatory, Heisey told The Patriot-News that about about nine in ten of the 65-70% of employees who received flu shots in 2012 did so voluntarily.
Other strategies to ward off the flu can range from disinfecting handrails to posting signs telling sick people to “stay away,” says the article.
Written by Alyssa Gerace