St. Mary’s Approach to managing this year’s Flu Season

This year’s flu season, as we have all heard on the news, has been quite challenging, with many more infections than anticipated. This year’s flu vaccine has only been partially successful at limiting the spread of the virus.  Here at St. Mary’s Healthcare System for Children we take any threat to our Children’s health very seriously and felt it was important to share what we are doing to protect our children this flu season.

Firstly, St. Mary’s Healthcare System for Children has significant involvement in Infection Control (IC).  We have been pioneers in the field of IC in Pediatric Post-acute Care, with a number of research studies and papers published in collaboration with colleagues at Columbia. We have presented our approach at national meetings and developed a national agenda to study and enhance IC in facilities. And while flu gets all the news, there are many infectious agents, mainly viruses, which can have serious negative consequences for our children. So our efforts around Infection Control are critical to maintaining positive progress for our patients. These efforts include hand-washing awareness campaigns, cohorting of children and staff when infections occur, alongside heightened awareness and surveillance to catch infections early and put preventive measures in place. We have a very high vaccination rate for our inpatients and our staff specifically around the flu. Those not vaccinated must wear masks when they work.

We are very aggressive with IC practices whenever we get a case of the flu, and we give prophylactic medication to children and staff that have been exposed. We have at times prophylaxed an entire floor with Tamiflu to control the spread of the virus. While we have had a few cases of flu this season, so far our efforts in controlling spread have worked.

St. Mary’s has also pioneered the use of ultra-violet (UV) light to “disinfect” as an infection control measure. A few years ago we studied a device that disinfects physical spaces using UV light.  Essentially, when we want to “clean” a room we take the kids out and treat the entire space with UV radiation. Our study showed significant positive results with decreased infections. This has led to a research paper which has been accepted for publication in the peer-reviewed American Journal of Infection Control. Our experience was so positive that we have just purchased one of these devices for our facility.

To find out more information about the flu the CDC has a wealth of resources on their website including tips and advice for preventing the spread of the flu, information on flu vaccines, treatment and much more.