SALT LAKE CITY — More Utah hospital workers are getting immunized against influenza, according to a new Utah Department of Health survey.
The data shows that health care worker influenza vaccination rates have increased from 75.5 percent in 2008 to 96.2 percent in 2014, making hospitals healthier for Utah workers and patients as far as the highly contagious virus is concerned.
"Low health care worker influenza immunization rates can lead to increased influenza infections, putting patients at risk for serious complications," said state epidemiologist Dr. Allyn Nakashima. "The good news is that Utah hospitals continue to see improvements in influenza vaccination rates among health care workers, reducing the potential for these deadly infections."
Of the 48,285 health care workers in the state, 46,438 were vaccinated this year, according to the annual report released Thursday.
Influenza is one of the leading causes of employee absences in the state, accounting for up to 10 to 12 percent of all sick days. The report also indicates that if the employee isn't sick, he or she is caring for a sick child and typically misses up to six days of work and requires up to two weeks to make a full recovery.
Health care workers, the health department states, are especially at risk for exposure to influenza because they work directly with patients or handle material that could spread infection. Multiple health care organizations recommend annual influenza vaccinations for health care workers, to reduce the likelihood they will get or spread influenza.
Hospitals have been required to report influenza vaccination rates among employees since 2007 and in 2011, the Utah Healthcare Infection Prevention Governance Committee recommended that all health care delivery facilities in Utah implement a policy of compulsory annual influenza vaccination for all health care personnel. To date, 46 Utah hospitals require workers to get flu shots every year, according to the report.
The efforts are meant to help hospitals achieve 95 percent vaccination rates, as influenza vaccination of health care personnel is considered by the health department as a "critical patient safety practice that should be required in all health care facilities."
Clinical evidence, the report states, "clearly shows that health care worker influenza vaccination reduces patient infections and death."
All of the licensed hospitals with compulsory flu shot policies in Utah, as well as five hospitals that don't have a policy, report 90 percent or greater vaccination rates for the 2013-14 influenza season. Children's and acute care hospitals report the highest number of vaccinated employees.