Prepared for winter coughs and colds?
Winter is fast approaching and now is the time to be preparing your facility for the season’s usual crop of influenza, coughs and colds.
Last year the elderly were hit hard with, not just influenza, but also other respiratory viral infections. Many were admitted to hospital with complications such as pneumonia.
The predominant circulating influenza strain in 2016 was Influenza A, H3N2, different from the previous year’s Influenza A, H1N1. Although covered by the vaccine, last year’s predominant strain changed slightly from what was covered in the vaccine and there were numerous reports of laboratory confirmed cases of young vaccinated adults who still acquired influenza. Despite this, vaccination still affords some protection and symptoms are less severe than without it. This is the same for the elderly whose uptake of the influenza vaccine is not so good – experts agree that there are still benefits from the elderly having an annual influenza vaccine.
Some of the other respiratory viruses last year that caused severe disease in our elderly included coronavirus, rhinovirus and parainfluenza.
Check list for winter virus planning
- Encourage and offer seasonal influenza vaccination to both staff and residents
- Ensure hand sanitiser is available for visitors at the entrance of the home
- Consider displaying a poster discouraging visitors with symptoms – a poster is available from CDHB communications
- Remind staff and residents about good cough etiquette / respiratory hygiene
- Have a good stock of tissues and hand sanitiser for residents
- Remind staff to stay off work if sick – no-one wants their germs!
- Educate staff about S&S of influenza – not all residents will display fever or cough
- Keep residents in their rooms if symptomatic and introduce droplet precautions, i.e. droplet masks for staff providing cares
- If you suspect an outbreak then confirm the outbreak and introduce control measures
Ensure all infections are logged into you infection register (for HCSL QA online uses – this is part of your infection log process) – remember your outbreak notification requirements as per your policies and procedures. If you would like more assistance with this please contact us.
This article kindly contributed by: Ruth Barratt RN, BSc, MAdvPrac (Hons) – Independent Infection Prevention & Control Advisor (Canterbury)
 Infection Prevention & Control Guidelines for the management of a respiratory outbreak in ARC / LTCF
 A Practical Guide to assist in the Prevention and Management of Influenza Outbreaks in Residential Care Facilities in Australia