High Vaccination Rates Keep Flu At Bay

Nearly 20,000 free flu shots administered this flu season

Thanks to another record-setting year for seasonal flu vaccinations, Duke officials said faculty and staff successfully warded off a potential widespread case of influenza.

About 19,300 flu shots were administered between September and the end of February. That's about 2,300 more vaccinations than last year's record number. For this flu season, almost 60 percent of all Duke employees were vaccinated.

"There's been a lack of flu throughout the state and region, but we know that having a population that is better protected against the flu is an important factor in limiting its spread," said Dr. Carol Epling , co-director of Employee Occupational Health and Wellness (EOHW). "It's especially impressive when considering we dealt with an absence of a flu epidemic that typically drives people to receive a vaccine."

As part of its annual effort to curb flu outbreak, EOHW offered free flu vaccinations to faculty and staff. In addition to administering shots at its offices in Duke Clinic, nurses from LIVE FOR LIFE, Duke's employee wellness program, visited offices and departments across Duke.

Joy Searles, a staff assistant in the Global Education Office for Undergraduates, was among the first employees to receive a flu vaccination. In late September, she visited the EOHW offices to get a free shot and never contracted the flu this season.

"I think everyone was so conscientious about getting the vaccine this year, it never really became a problem in my work area," Searles said. "Thankfully, no one in my family had the flu either. I'm a firm believer in preventative medicine and this proves how effective vaccinations can be."

Epling said a mass flu vaccination drill held across the health system in late September was a helpful way to kick-off the flu season. Over a 24-hour period, physicians and clinical and non-clinical staff received thousands of shots. At Duke Clinic and Hospital, about 6,000 doses of the flu vaccine were given to employees during the September drill. Overall, 78 percent of Duke Medicine employees received a flu shot between September and March 1, up 6 percent from the 2010-11 flu season.

"It's important for our hospital employees to value patient safety as well as keep themselves healthy by receiving the vaccination," Epling said. "We're really pleased with the collaborative work that went into the emergency preparedness drill and the effort of faculty and staff to keep our patients healthy too."