Update: To clarify, health officials don't want people sick with the flu going to doctors' offices because it increases the risk of doctors, nurses and other patients getting sick. If you have the flu, there's not much a doctor can do for you, so it's just best to sit home and let the virus run its course. That wasn't clear in the original story.
Original post: Employers who demand doctor's notes for sick employees this winter may help spread the H1N1 flu virus, according to city health officials.
Wheaton-Franciscan All Saints is working with the Racine Health Department on a public information campaign to help contain the virus. Part of the campaign will tell employees with flu-like symptoms - fever over 100 degrees and a cough or sore throat - not to return to work until 24 hours after their fever breaks.
At the same time, the campaign will also try to convince employers not to demand employees get a note from a doctor if they're sick. Many employers require a note if someone is out sick for three days or more.
"All Saints is worried about employers sending people in for a pass," said Terri Hicks, director of community health programs for Health Department.
The city itself is reviewing its HR policies to address the coming flu season, Hicks said.
In response to the H1N1 epidemic, the city is distributing its first vaccinations this week. Paramedics will start administering the vaccines to each other this week, interim Public Health Administrator Marcia Fernholz told the Board of Health. They'll also target health department staff, school nurses, nursing home staff and day care workers.
The city now has 600 vaccinations to give out and has ordered another 3,300 vaccinations for mass flu clinics at the end of October or early November, Fernholz said. The Mount Pleasant/Caledonia Health Department and the Western Racine County Health Department also each ordered 3,300 vaccinations. All three departments are planning together to offer mass clinics with about 10,000 vaccines in October or November.
The good news for the city is the vaccines are paid for by the federal government. The feds are also supplying syringes, cotton swabs, though the city has to provide band aids. The H1N1 vaccines will be available for free to the public.
For the first 10,000 vaccines, health officials are recommending pregnant women get the vaccination because children under 6 months old cannot receive it. They are also recommending people between 6 months and 24 years old get the vaccination, as well as anyone between 25 and 64 with existing medical conditions that could be aggravated by the flu.
Eventually there will be enough H1N1 vaccines for everyone who wants it, said Michelle Breheim, epidemiologist with the city.
As for regular flu vaccines, the city has already given out most, if not all, of its supply. The city ordered an additional 100 doses, which should arrive in November. Walgreen's and other local providers have access to regular flu vaccines at prices comparable to what the city was offering.