LA County health officials order health care workers to get flu shots or wear masks

The official flu season starts Nov. 1, 2013, and lasts through March 31, 2014.
The official flu season starts Nov. 1, 2013, and lasts through March 31, 2014.
Lance McCort/Flickr (Creative Commons)

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Flu season is almost upon us and Los Angeles County health officials are this year hoping to combat the low rate of flu shots among health care professionals by mandating the vaccination for certain health care workers – or by requiring them to wear protective masks in patient areas. 

The flu shot order applies to all health care employees who have contact with patients in acute care hospitals, skilled nursing facilities and intermediate care facilities.

The mandate, allowed under California Health and Safety Code (§120175), marks a first for the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health and will apply to about 680 facilities countywide, says an agency spokesman.

The order is similar to those already adopted by a handful of other California counties and by 30 Los Angeles area hospitals.

County health officials say it's necessary as studies show up to a third of all health care workers nationwide don’t seek vaccinations, unless they’re required to do so.

That’s a concern, they say, because influenza, known more commonly as the "flu,” is highly contagious and can be deadly when it strikes the very young, the elderly and the sick.  The flu kills about 24,000 people each year in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). 

LA County health care workers are required to get their vaccines by the start of the officials flu season, which begins Nov. 1, 2013 and lasts through March 31, 2014. 

The mandate does not include facilities in the cities of Long Beach and Pasadena, which are governed by their own health agencies.