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Flu clinics aimed at expanding the advantage by keeping workforce healthy

By NUWC Division Newport Public Affairs | Oct. 26, 2018

NEWPORT, R.I. — In an effort to minimize the risk of influenza among employees, Naval Undersea Warfare Center (NUWC) Division Newport sponsored two flu clinics in October, for both federal employees and contractors, which resulted in 786 doses of the vaccine being administered.

The clinics were held Oct. 3 and 17 and were subsidized by Civilian Morale, Welfare & Recreation (CMWR). 

An annual event, this year’s clinics saw an increase by about 147 employees over last year, Deborah Jones, NUWC Newport’s on-site registered nurse, said.

“The clinics ran smoothly and, on average, there was less than a 15-minute wait time,” Jones said. “CMWR volunteers were helpful in answering questions and assisting with the paperwork for walk-ins.”

The flu, a respiratory illness caused by viruses, is highly contagious, and the best way to avoid getting it is to get a vaccine, Jones said. Once contracted, the flu can cause sickness ranging from mild to severe. Most people who get the flu will have a fever and cough or sore throat. They may also have a runny or stuffy nose, body aches, a headache, chills, fatigue, vomiting or diarrhea.

In some cases, flu virus can lead to hospitalization and even death. The U.S. Centers for Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that last year 80,000 Americans died from the flu, the highest death toll since the winter of 1976-77.

Workplace clinics are aimed at making the vaccine easily accessible to employees, Jones explained.

“This way they don’t have to go to their doctor’s office or elsewhere,” she said.

The clinics are also aimed at preventing a flu epidemic, which could affect NUWC Newport’s ability to fulfill its mission of meeting the needs of the fleet. The Naval Sea Systems Command’s (NAVSEA) “Campaign Plan to Expand the Advantage,” addresses the importance of employees: “Our Nation’s greatest asset is its people and their ability to design and develop innovative solutions to meet any challenge. NAVSEA’s dedicated workforce is the key to our Navy being ready to fight and win. We are the Force Behind the Fleet!”

The flu causes U.S. employees to miss approximately 17 million workdays due to flu, at an estimated $7 billion a year in sick days and lost productivity, according to the CDC. The annual direct costs of influenza, such as hospital and doctor’s office visits, in the U.S. are an estimated $4.6 billion.

To lessen flu risks at work, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) conducts surveillance, Health Hazard Evaluations (HHEs) and research. While each workplace is unique, and a worker’s risk for occupational exposure to influenza can vary widely depending on the nature of their job, workplaces should:

  • Promote influenza vaccination among workers.
  • Encourage proper hand and respiratory hygiene practices.
  • Educate workers on influenza signs and symptoms.
  • Inform workers on what to do if they get sick.

To monitor the possibility of flu epidemics, physicians report to the state health department the number and type of cases they are treating. The state gathers that information and shares it with doctors and nurses if outbreaks are occurring. Jones gets such notifications and will report any concerns to leadership, so that the workforce can be notified. Such was the case, several years ago, with the H1N1 virus, and a second round of inoculations were given to help stave off that virus, Jones said.

NUWC Newport’s clinics were organized by the Safety and Occupational Health Branch and administered by the staff of The Wellness Co., a long-standing provider of health and wellness and adult immunization services in the New England region.

The Navy Health Clinic New England (NHCNE) also administered flu vaccines to active military and the NHCNE eligible beneficiary population on Oct. 18. All other eligible beneficiaries can receive the vaccine from NHCNE immunization clinics.

NUWC Division Newport, part of the Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA), is one of two divisions of the Naval Undersea Warfare Center. NUWC Division Newport’s mission is to provide research, development, test and evaluation, engineering and fleet support for submarines, autonomous underwater systems, undersea offensive and defensive weapons systems, and countermeasures. NUWC’s other division is located in Keyport, Washington.