Health professionals in New York who refuse to accept the flu vaccine will be obliged to wear masks while treating patients during the coming flu season.
The move comes after the US – and New York State in particular – experienced one of the worst influenza seasons in a decade during the winter of 2012-2013.
During its peak week – ending January 19, 2013 – New York alone reported more than 5000 cases of lab-confirmed influenza, more than 1120 hospitalisations as a result of flu, and 5 flu-related child deaths. By the end of the winter, more than 45 000 cases had been confirmed, more than 9500 people had been hospitalized, and 14 children had died.
The state of New York is implementing a first-of-its-kind mandate for the use of surgical masks in all unvaccinated health care personnel, both staff and volunteer.
Under the new regulations, health care facilities are obligated to report the numbers of personnel who have been vaccinated and must supervise unvaccinated staff to ensure the appropriate use of masks. Personnel who fail to comply will be subject to the same institutional disciplinary procedures imposed on workers who do not follow other infection control procedures.