9 simple steps to protect yourself and your dental staff from flu

January 11, 2013

Winter 2013 is shaping up to be one of the worst flu seasons on record, and dentists and dental staff are encouraged to take precautions to protect themselves and their patients from falling victim to the outbreak. By establishing and following proper infection-control guidelines and limiting your exposure to sick staff and patients, you stand a good chance of making it through the season unscathed.

Winter 2013 is shaping up to be one of the worst flu seasons on record, and dentists and dental staff are encouraged to take precautions to protect themselves and their patients from falling victim to the outbreak. By establishing and following proper infection-control guidelines and limiting your exposure to sick staff and patients, you stand a good chance of making it through the season unscathed.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) 41 states are experiencing widespread flu outbreaks, and the agency estimates that 95 percent of the flu vaccines manufacturers planned to make this year have already been administered: 128 million doses.

The CDC recommends the following guidelines for protecting yourself, your staff and your patients from succumbing to the flu.

  • Encourage staff to get vaccinated. If possible, arrange to have the vaccine administered to all staff members at the office. With 95 percent of the planned supply exhausted, this may be difficult, but practices should pursue all avenues.

  • Implement respiratory hygiene and cough etiquette for staff and patients.

  • Encourage sick staff members to stay at home.

  • Encourage sick patients to stay at home unless in cases of emergency.

  • Post and strictly adhere to all existing infection control measures.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration adds these measures:

  • Ensure proper functioning of the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system in patient rooms, procedure rooms, and examination rooms; 

  • Limit the transport of infectious patients throughout the healthcare facility;

  • Limit the number of healthcare staff who come in contact with flu patients; and

  • Provide proper personal protective equipment (gloves, gowns, surgical masks, respirators) to healthcare staff and ensure that it is used and discarded correctly.

“Successful implementation of many, if not all, of these strategies is dependent on the presence of clear administrative policies and organizational leadership that promote and facilitate adherence to these recommendations among the various people within the healthcare setting, including patients, visitors and healthcare professionals,” the CDC guidance urges.

Dentists and dental staff face greater risk than most people when it comes to spreading the flu. Encouraging sick staff and patients to stay at home, wearing proper protective gear and washing hands regularly are the best ways to protect yourself, your staff and your patients.

The full CDC guidance can be viewed here.