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11 a.m. Event at Volney Richmond Auditorium Kicks Off Annual Flu Shot Effort
 
SEATTLE – (Sept. 13, 2012) — After almost two months of continuously sunny skies and warm temperatures, it is difficult to believe that it is time to start thinking about the flu season, which according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), officially begins in October and usually peaks in February.
 
Unfortunately, the protection offered by the flu vaccine is not instantaneous. In fact, it can take two weeks or more for a person’s immune system to respond to the vaccine by building up enough antibodies to offer protection. In order to protect patients, visitors and staff, Virginia Mason Medical Center is officially kicking off its flu vaccination program now.
 
The annual vaccination effort will kick off on Tuesday, Sept. 18, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Volney Richmond Auditorium, located on Level 1 of Lindeman Pavilion, 1201 Terry Ave., Seattle. Hundreds of staff members are expected to turn out to receive their flu shots. A similar event will be held for night-shift employees, in addition to other opportunities to be vaccinated over the coming months.
 
The flu is a contagious, life-threatening illness caused by the influenza virus that can cause fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, aches, headache, body ache and fatigue. The CDC estimates that between 1 in 5 and 1 in 20 people in the United States contract the flu each year. More than 200,000 people annually are hospitalized with the flu, and an average of about 36,000 Americans will die this flu season from the flu or complications such as pneumonia. By comparison, about 34,000 people die in U.S. traffic accidents each year.
 
The World Health Organization estimates that 3 million to 5 million people are hospitalized worldwide with influenza each year and that as many as 1 in 6 will die from complications.
 
Virginia Mason was the first health care organization in the nation in 2005 to require all staff receive an annual flu shot to protect employees and patients alike. At that time, only about 40 percent of health care workers nationwide were vaccinated. Since then, hundreds of other hospitals around the country have followed Virginia Mason’s lead and now require their employees to be vaccinated against the flu, bringing vaccination levels to about 65 percent of all health care workers. Virginia Mason Chief of Medicine Joyce Lammert, MD, says it is a tremendous step forward.
 
"It is possible to be infectious without symptoms," said Dr. Lammert, who is board certified in both Internal Medicine and Allergy and Immunology. "This means unimmunized health care workers who don’t know they are ill can pass the flu along to their patients. By requiring all of our staff to be immunized, we are protecting our patients, each other and our families. It’s the right thing to do."
 
Flu clinics for the public are also beginning Monday, Sept. 17, at eight Virginia Mason locations. Information about the dates and times of these clinics by location is available at VirginiaMason.org/flu or by calling Virginia Mason’s Influenza Immunization Hotline at (888) 625-5515.
 
About Virginia Mason Medical Center
Virginia Mason Medical Center, founded in 1920, is a nonprofit regional health care system in Seattle that serves the Pacific Northwest. Virginia Mason employs more than 5,300 people and includes a 336-bed acute-care hospital, a primary and specialty care group practice of nearly 460 physicians, locations throughout the Puget Sound area and Bailey-Boushay House, the first skilled-nursing and outpatient chronic care management program in the U.S. designed and built specifically to meet the needs of people with HIV/AIDS. Benaroya Research Institute at Virginia Mason is internationally recognized for its breakthrough autoimmune disease research. Virginia Mason was the first health system to apply lean manufacturing principles to health care delivery to eliminate waste and improve quality and patient safety.
 
Awards and distinctions include Top Hospital of the Decade by The Leapfrog Group, 2012 Top Hospital (for the sixth consecutive year) and grade "A" patient safety rating by The Leapfrog Group, 2012 Distinguished Hospital for Clinical Excellence and Patient Safety Excellence Award from HealthGrades®, and 2012 America’s 100 Best Specialty Excellence Award for Overall Cardiac and Gastrointestinal Care from HealthGrades.  
 
To learn more about Virginia Mason Medical Center, please visit Facebook.com/VMcares or follow @VirginiaMason on Twitter.
 
To learn more about how Virginia Mason is transforming health care and to join the conversation, visit our blog at virginiamasonblog.org.
 
For media inquiries, contact:
 
John Gillespie
Media Relations
john.gillespie@vmmc.org
(206) 341-1509 (o)
(206) 402-2822 (m)

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