With early cases of seasonal flu already being reported in the U.S., Fresenius Medical Care North America (FMCNA), the nation's leading network of dialysis facilities, is strongly encouraging dialysis patients to get flu shots to protect themselves against this common infectious disease. In October, FMCNA will once again begin offering free vaccinations, which protect against both seasonal flu and H1N1 swine flu, to all of its dialysis patients and employees.
Influenza, or flu, is a highly contagious respiratory illness that usually reaches a peak during winter months and is caused by viruses that are spread by coughing or sneezing. Flu affects up to 60 million Americans each year with symptoms of fatigue, fever and chills, headache and body aches, nasal congestion and coughing, which can last for up to two weeks. The consequences can be much worse, however, for dialysis patients, whose immune systems are weakened by kidney failure. For them, flu and its related complications - especially pneumonia - pose a serious risk of hospitalization and even death.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends yearly flu shots for everyone age 6 months and older. But according to the CDC, these vaccinations are particularly important for persons on dialysis, a life-sustaining process that cleans waste products from the blood and removes extra fluids after a person's kidneys have failed.
"All dialysis patients should be vaccinated against the flu to reduce the likelihood of serious health complications," says Dugan W. Maddux, M.D., FACP and vice president of Chronic Kidney Disease Initiatives at FMCNA. "Also, patients and medical staff alike should practice good hygiene during flu season to avoid catching and spreading the disease. It's important to increase immunity within the communities more susceptible to the flu."
Tips for Preventing Flu
Flu viruses are transmitted mainly by airborne droplets that can travel up to 12 feet through the air at 100 miles per hour. They also can be picked up from counters, doorknobs and other surfaces, where they can live for up to 48 hours. So remember to:
Cover your nose and mouth when you cough or sneeze - and properly dispose of used tissues.
Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
Wash your hands frequently with soap and water or alcohol-based hand sanitizer - especially after coughing, sneezing or using a tissue.
Minimize contact with others if you do become sick, to keep from infecting them.
Tell your caregivers before entering the dialysis treatment area if you have signs of the flu, so that they can provide you with a mask to protect other patients and staff.
Let your caregiver know if you get a flu shot elsewhere, so that they can include this information in your medical records.
FMCNA is committed to ensuring the health of its staff and patients during flu season by offering free vaccinations and practicing effective infection control. This flu-prevention initiative is part of the company's UltraCare® mission of delivering excellent, patient-centered care through innovative programs and technology, continuous quality improvement and a focus on superior customer service.
Patients should inquire at their local dialysis clinic for locations of specific vaccination opportunities. They can also find a short video regarding the importance of receiving the flu vaccine, as well as other information about staying healthy on FMCNA's website: www.ultracare-dialysis.com.
Fresenius Medical Care North America