Get Your Flu Shot!

blowingnoseEveryone 6 months of age or older should get the flu shot each year to protect themselves and their loved ones.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention strongly recommends the shot for children younger than 5, adults 50 and older, pregnant women and those with medical conditions, as they are at high risk for developing complications if they catch the flu.

Check with your healthcare provider or visit a local pharmacy to get vaccinated. It is best to get the shot as soon as the vaccine becomes available, which is typically late summer. It takes about two weeks after vaccination for antibodies that protect against the influenza virus to develop in the body. Getting vaccinated early builds protection against the flu before the virus begins spreading. Flu outbreaks can happen as early as October, but most occur in January or later.

Learn key facts about the flu by visiting the Centers for Disease and Prevention Control website.

Ebola: What you Need to Know

Many people are concerned about the current Ebola outbreak in the West African countries of Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone. Below is a Q&A from the Centers for Disease Control on Ebola and why it does not currently pose a significant risk to the United States.

What is Ebola?
Ebola virus is the cause of a viral hemorrhagic fever disease. Symptoms include: fever, headache, joint and muscle aches, weakness, diarrhea, vomiting, stomach pain, lack of appetite, and abnormal bleeding. Symptoms may appear anywhere from 2-21 days after exposure to ebolavirus, though 8-10 days is most common.

How is Ebola transmitted?
Ebola is transmitted through direct contact with the blood or bodily fluids of an infected symptomatic person or through exposure to objects (such as needles) that have been contaminated with infected secretions.

Can Ebola be transmitted through the air?
No. Ebola is not a respiratory disease like the flu, so it is not transmitted through the air.

Can I get Ebola from contaminated food or water?

Can I get Ebola from a person who is infected but doesn’t have any symptoms?
No. Individuals who are not symptomatic are not contagious. In order for the virus to be transmitted, an individual would have to have direct contact with an individual who is experiencing symptoms.

Are there any cases of individuals contracting Ebola in the U.S.?

To learn more about Ebola, click here.

Pesky Ticks and Mosquitoes

From the Department of Health and Human Services of North Carolina. . .

154355003With summer fast approaching and people spending more time outdoors, it is important for everyone to take precautions against tick and mosquito bites. Tick and mosquito borne infections cause illnesses and deaths in North Carolina each year, with more than 800 cases reported in 2013.

To encourage awareness of this issue, Governor McCrory recently proclaimed April 2014 as “Tick and Mosquito Awareness Month” in North Carolina.

“Ticks and mosquitoes are very common in our state, and they can carry germs that cause serious infections,” said Carl Williams, DHHS’ State Public Health Veterinarian. “The good news is that many of these infections can be prevented by following some basic control measures.”

Tick borne diseases in North Carolina include Rocky Mountain spotted fever, Lyme disease, and ehrlichiosis. These diseases are diagnosed from all regions of the state and can be acquired at any time of year. However, the vast majority of infections occur in the months of June through September.

Mosquito borne diseases are less common than tick borne illness, but severe infections due to LaCrosse virus and West Nile virus are reported every year, including cases of encephalitis, or inflammation of the brain.

The North Carolina Division of Public Health encourages the following activities to help protect against illness caused by ticks and mosquitoes:

  • Avoid tick habitat, which includes wooded, grassy or brushy areas and wear repellents
  • If you find a tick attached to your body, carefully remove it by grasping the tick with fine tipped tweezers as close as possible to your skin and apply a steady gentle pressure until it releases.
  • Use a mosquito repellent when you are outside and exposed to mosquitoes.
  • Mosquito proof your home by installing or repairing screens on windows and doors to keep mosquitoes outside and use air conditioning if you have it.
  • Reduce mosquito breeding by emptying standing water from flowerpots, gutters, buckets, pool covers, pet water dishes, discarded tires, and birdbaths on a regular basis.

While it is not possible to prevent all cases of tick and mosquito borne illness, you can greatly reduce your risk by following these basic control measures.

“It is a great time to enjoy North Carolina outdoors,” said Williams. “Just be mindful to take the appropriate steps to protect yourself and your family.”

For more information about tick and mosquito borne infections, visit


Fight the flu

This year, join Duke Medicine: Protect yourself and your loved ones from the flu!

To help protect our patients and their loved ones and to ensure the safety of our healthcare environment, Duke Regional Hospital (a proud part of Duke Medicine) is strongly encouraging all its team members to get vaccinated against the flu. Getting vaccinated is the most effective way to prevent getting and spreading the flu.

Early prevention is best

When it comes to getting vaccinated against the flu, the sooner the better.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), everyone over the age of six months should get the flu shot as soon as the vaccine is available, usually beginning in September. Many people mistakenly believe their protection against this deadly infection will wane come peak flu season if they get the flu shot in early fall. In fact, getting vaccinated early means you and your loved ones will build protection against the flu that will last throughout the season.

Aaron Weinbaum (left), Claudette Kellam, Amanda Thomas, Margie Muir, Tracy Stell and Holly Wilson are among the many team members helping vaccinate staff at Duke Regional.

Aaron Weinbaum (left), Claudette Kellam, Amanda Thomas, Margie Muir, Tracy Stell and Holly Wilson are among the many team members helping vaccinate staff at Duke Regional.

“As healthcare workers, it is our responsibility to ensure we provide safe care to every patient, every time,” says Vicky Orto, chief nursing and patient care services officer at Duke Regional. “This is why Duke Regional Hospital clinical and support services team members will get vaccinated against the flu. Our community shares the responsibility to protect themselves and their loved ones.”

For anyone afraid of or uncomfortable with needles, there is a nasal spray vaccine available. This year there are also vaccines for people with egg allergies and for people who live a vegan lifestyle. Talk with your doctor or pharmacist to learn more about any of these flu vaccines.

Keep the bug at bay

The flu virus can strike at any time of year. The flu typically causes fever, chills, headache, sore throat and fatigue. If you develop these symptoms, the CDC recommends staying home from work or school and avoiding contact with others until 24 hours after your fever subsides.

Before flu hits, keep your guard up with these preventive steps:

  • Wash your hands regularly using antibacterial soap and warm water. Alcohol-based hand sanitizer is great to use when you’re on the go.
  • Avoid hand-to-face contact, as bacteria finds its way into your body through your mouth, nose and eyes.
  • Don’t smoke. Enhanced immunity is one of the many benefits associated with quitting smoking. If you smoke, you may be more vulnerable to viral infections such as the flu.
  • Get vaccinated. Flu shots are recommended for most people, especially children, pregnant women and healthcare providers.

Protect yourself by washing your hands

Vicki L. Tutor, BSN, RN, CIC, Infection Preventionist

hand washingHand hygiene is the number one way to prevent the spread of infection. As healthcare workers, we have a responsibility to our patients, their loved ones and each other to wash our hands before and after each episode of care.

With cold and flu season on the horizon, it’s also important that everyone take precautions. Washing your hands can keep you from becoming sick and can keep you from spreading germs or illness to your loved ones and co-workers.

When to perform hand hygiene

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends performing hand hygiene

  • Before, during and after preparing food
  • Before eating food
  • Before and after caring for someone who is sick
  • Before and after treating a cut or wound
  • After using the toilet
  • After changing diapers or cleaning a child who has used the toilet
  • After blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing
  • After touching an animal or animal waste
  • After handling pet food or pet treats
  • After touching garbage

Cleaning your hands the right way

Washing your hands is an important part of personal health care, and can help keep you and your loved ones safe. To clean your hands the right way

  • Place a clean paper towel under your arm.
  • Wet your hands with clean, running water (warm is better) and apply soap.
  • Rub your hands together to make a lather and scrub them well; be sure to scrub the backs of your hands, between your fingers and under your nails and rings. Friction is as important as the use of soap.
  • Continue rubbing your hands for at least 20 seconds.
  • Rinse your hands well under running water. Holding your hands so water runs down and into the sink.
  • Dry your hands using a clean towel or air dry them.
    • If you wash often, pat your hands dry with the paper towel.
  • Use the paper towel to open the door of the restroom.

In some cases you can use alcohol-based gel or foam to clean your hands. Apply a dime-sized portion of the product to the palm of one hand; then rub your hands together and rub the product over all the surfaces of your hands and fingers until your hands are dry.

Remember: Your hands can be dirty even though there may not be visible dirt on your hands. For visibly dirty hands, always use soap and water. Otherwise, you can use alcohol-based gel or foam to clean your hands.