Influenza information: Preventing the flu and standard precautions

Although indicators point to a less severe influenza season this year, we need to be prepared to protect our patients from the potentially serious effects of influenza.

General influenza information

All UI Health Care students, faculty, staff, and volunteers should follow these general precautions:

  • Get vaccinated for influenza.
  • Avoid going out in public when ill.
  • Cover your nose and mouth with the crook of an arm or sleeve, not your hand, when coughing or sneezing.
  • Throw used tissues in the trash.
  • Do not share food, drink, or utensils.
  • Wash hands with soap and water frequently—particularly after sneezing—or use an alcohol-based hand gel.

Influenza usually comes on suddenly, and illness may be mild to severe illness. Symptoms typically include:

  • Fever (at least 100ºF [37.8ºC])
  • Chills
  • Cough and/or sore throat
  • Body aches
  • Headache
  • Fatigue

If you have influenza or fever (100°F [37.8°C] or greater), do not come to work until you have been fever-free for 24 hours without taking a fever-reducing medicine. Be sure to inform your supervisor if you will not be able to report to work. In addition:

  • If symptoms such as cough and sneezing are still present, wear a facemask during patient-care activities.
  • If another illness is diagnosed, check with your supervisor regarding work restrictions.

Most people with influenza will not need to seek treatment, but alternatives to the Emergency Department for evaluation and rapid testing include: UI Urgent Care (Scott Blvd), all UI QuickCare sites, and UI Health Care primary care family medicine sites, including Scott Boulevard, River Crossing, and Muscatine.

If you experience any of these warning signs, seek emergency medical care:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Chest pain
  • Bluish skin color
  • Not drinking enough fluids to stay hydrated
  • Not waking up or interacting with others, or confusion
  • Symptoms improve but then return with a fever and worse cough

Patient care information

Standard precautions for all patients:

  • Perform hand hygiene before and after contact with patients, patients’ environment, and after removing gloves.
  • Wear gloves when you touch respiratory secretions or contaminated environmental surfaces.
  • Wear gloves, masks, and eyewear during respiratory specimen collection (nasal washings, tracheal aspirates, throat or nasopharyngeal swabs).
  • Offer masks to persons who are coughing or report fever or sore throat.

Isolation:

  • Place patients with influenza or influenza-like illness (temperature of 100º F [37.8º C] or greater and cough and/or sore throat) into droplet precautions. This will prevent exposures to patients and staff.
  • Follow droplet precautions for any patient who has a respiratory panel ordered until a diagnosis is made.
  • Pediatric patients with influenza like illness should be placed in contact and droplet precautions.

Ill visitors: Persons with influenza-like symptoms should not visit patients (exception: ill parents visiting children must wear a mask).

Exposures: Please see the Flu Exposure Fact Sheet

More information on influenza is available at:

If you have questions, contact the Program of Hospital Epidemiology at 319-356-1606 or pager 3158.

Thank you for everything you do for our patients and your colleagues every day.

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