Read more about:
PHSA Influenza Prevention Policy (HR_020)
Staff Influenza Outbreak Policy (HR 026)
Find general influenza information and videos in the feature boxes on the right.
There are no changes to the Influenza Control Program Policy for 2015/16.
PHSA and the regional health authorities have adopted a Staff Influenza Outbreak Policy that comes into force whenever a health care facility or unit within a facility has a declared outbreak of respiratory infection (RI) or influenza.
During a flu or RI outbreak at a health care facility or unit, the annual Influenza Control Program Policy is suspended and the Staff Influenza Outbreak Policy applies to that facility or unit for the duration of the outbreak. The outbreak policy applies to that facility or unit for the duration of the outbreak. The outbreak policy applies to all health care workers, regardless of which health authority employs them or which health authority is responsible for the affected facility or unit.
In the event of a declared flu or RI outbreak at a health care facility or unit:
- Health care workers who have not had a flu shot will need to take anti-viral medication such as Tamiflu for the duration of the outbreak if entering declared outbreak facilities or units
- Unimmunized health care workers who get a flu shot during a declared outbreak will also be required to take anti-viral medication such as Tamiflu for 14 days following immunization if entering declared outbreak facilities or units
- Unimmunized health care workers who work at declared outbreak facilities or units who choose to remain unimmunized and not take anti-viral medication may be excluded from work without pay
The requirement to get immunized or wear a mask during the influenza season is an enhancement of the previous influenza risk reduction strategy.
Other infection control measures such as rapid identification of ill patients, hand hygiene, cough etiquette, restrictions on work and visiting, and the use of anti-viral medications are all important and are part of health authority plans but these enhancements will further reduce the risk of infection.
- We have an obligation to protect our staff and patients to the best of our ability
- Voluntary vaccination strategies have failed and the low rates pose an increased risk to vulnerable patients
- The coverage of key clinical staff has remained well under 50% in many settings
Please talk to your manager if you are choosing to wear a mask throughout the policy application period. Your manager needs to ensure they have enough masks for their staff. Masks should be readily available throughout the influenza season.
Procedure/surgical masks are the masks required under this policy.
If you are not vaccinated you must wear a procedure mask whenever you are in a patient care area during the required vaccination period.
You do not need to wear a mask when eating or drinking. Unvaccinated workers are also not required to wear a mask in administration-only areas, including a private office, which are not generally accessed by patients, residents or clients.
Simply change your mask when it gets overly moist - there is no set time designated when you need to change your mask. It is important that you dispose of your used masks appropriately. Please dispose of masks in an available garbage can, and follow proper hand hygiene protocols before replacing with a new mask.
Instructions: How to wear a mask
Routine infection control and safety practices unrelated to this policy (such as the use of respiratory protection, eye protection and hand hygiene) should not be affected by this policy. The use of masks for routine practices and additional precautions should continue as part of effective infection prevention and control programs.
While vaccination offers the best protection, masks can help to prevent transmission of the virus from an infected health care provider, who may have no or minimal influenza-like symptoms.
- Masks may also protect unvaccinated health care workers from infected patients or visitors with influenza
- In conjunction with proper hand hygiene, masks have been shown to reduce rates of influenza-like illness in residents of college dormitories and households
- Masks can filter influenza virus particles to undetectable levels when measured at a distance of 20 cm from an infected patient
As a reminder, a patient care location is defined as: any building, property or site owned, leased, rented or operated by PHSA where there are patients, residents or clients who are receiving care and any patient/client home or other locations where covered individuals interact with the patient/client in the course of his/her work for PHSA.
Frequently asked questions about the policy, vaccination and masks