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LETTER: Thiesfeldt bill would increase flu

12:05 PM, May 24, 2013  |  Comments
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Influenza outbreaks occur nearly every winter, resulting in significant illness and death, especially in high-risk patients. Anyone can get infected; anyone can die. Future epidemics and pandemics are likely. About 3,000 to 49,000 Americans die from influenza-related illness each year (globally from 250,000 to 500,000).

This range of death represents the unpredictability and variability of influenza mortality; it remains "the last great uncontrolled plague of mankind." The cornerstone of prevention is vaccination. Health care workers (HCW) are in contact with people at high risk for complications from influenza. Vaccinating these them is therefore crucial because they may work unknowingly infected or with mild symptoms.

Research shows vaccinated HCW reduce influenza and related illness, sick days, physician visits, worker absenteeism, hospitalization and death. Outbreaks in health care settings have been attributed to low influenza vaccination coverage among HCW. Those having direct contact with patients present the primary source of infectious disease outbreaks.

But Rep. Jeremy Thiesfeldt writes a bill banning employers, including hospitals, nursing homes and long-term care facilities from mandating workers to receive annual flu shots. He calls flu shots "a large, ineffective vaccine." Influenza vaccination actually can reduce morbidity by 70 to 90 percent, making it the most effective prevention method.

With no scientific expertise, no knowledge base, no factual research done, no expert consultation, Thiesfeldt arrogantly drafts public health legislation. With no analytical thinking or reasoning, he bases legislative decisions concerning science on what complaining constituents tell him - in this case, disgruntled workers fired for refusing policy-required vaccinations. Responsible and ethical health care workers want vaccinations to protect their patients, others and themselves from harm. Thiesfeldt's bill would increase the spread of a deadly disease.

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