Keeping everyone healthy during the winter months…
Now that the trees have lost their autumn glory and frost glistens on bare branches it is a timely reminder that winter and the holiday season is fast approaching. This is the time of year when the pace of life shifts up a gear both at work and at home. It is also the time of year when we, and those we support, can fall prey to winter infections which hit us hard and can keep us feeling unwell for a long period.
As a health and social care worker you have both a responsibility to yourself and to those you support to take precautions to avoid becoming ill and/or passing infections on to others. The two major concerns at this time of year are flu and norovirus or the ‘winter vomiting bug’.
Flu is debilitating, can lead to serious complications and even death. The flu outbreak in the UK during the winter of 2010-2011 resulted in 602 people dying with more than 70% of deaths among 15- 64 year olds (Health Protection Agency). Although this was slightly unusual as some of those deaths were due to swine flu, the fact remains that it is in the person’s best interest to be protected. By now, you and the people you support may well have received a flu vaccination as a routine practice within your organisation. If this is not the case then it is important to raise this and act now. The NHS provides free vaccinations for the following people:
• People over 65 years of age
• Children and young people aged 2 years – 17 years
• People with long term chronic health conditions such as heart failure, asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD); kidney disease, Parkinson’s, HIV, AIDS etc
• People in receipt of the carers allowance
• Health and social care workers
The other major concern to health during the winter months is the norovirus. Between 600,000 and 1 million people in the UK catch the norovirus each year. The norovirus is thought to contribute to the deaths of about 80 people in the UK each year most being older people with other serious health problems (Royal Society for Public Health). It is highly contagious, unpleasant to experience and has no specific cure. You can however prevent or limit its spread through stringent good hygiene practice e.g. thorough hand washing, not sharing towels and disinfecting all surfaces touched by someone who has the virus.
To find out more about the norovirus, symptoms, treatment and prevention visit: http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/Norovirus/Pages/Introduction.aspx
Have a safe, healthy and happy holiday season.