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October 30, 2013

Area hospitals beef up anti-flu efforts


Benjamin recommended directing coughs and sneezes into tissues or sleeves to prevent spread of germs. Droplets can travel 3 feet from cough and up to 20 feet from a sneeze, she said.

Otsego County also has been providing fewer flu shots in recent years and is reviewing whether to continue those immunizations, Benjamin said. The department had a surplus last year and ordered fewer dosages this year, she said.

However, the department expects a delayed shipment of flu vaccine this week and will be scheduling flu shots during regular immunization clinics in Oneonta and Cooperstown and at senior meal sites, she said.

“There are people who have always come to us,” Benjamin said.

Karen Huxtable, spokeswoman for Bassett Medical Center, said almost 71 percent of employees are immunized against the flu, which is ahead of the rate at this time last year. A handful of employees have an allergy that prevents them from getting the vaccine, she said, and an egg-less vaccine is expected to be available in about a month.

Last year, Bassett’s vaccination rate without the state mandate was 82 percent, Huxtable said. The center chose then to require employees to be immunized or wear a mask because there was a high prevalence of influenza around the state and in counties directly adjacent to Otsego County.

“Mandating employees be vaccinated or wear a mask is the right thing to do to protect our patients,” Huxtable said in an email Monday. “Influenza is extremely contagious and leads to thousands of deaths every year in this country.”

Bassett has seen few patients to date with flu-like symptoms, Huxtable said, and it’s too early to make predictions about the severity of the season.

“We encourage patients to be immunized as well as staff,” she said. “Some of the most susceptible people to seasonal influenza are young children and the elderly.”

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