Will the fall of 2021 become known for the “twindemic?” As we approach flu and respiratory illnesses season and with hospitalizations on the rise due to the Delta variant, we’re about to find out. And with each virus sharing symptoms including a cough, shortness of breath, runny or stuffy nose, fatigue and sore throat, there are challenges ahead for healthcare providers and patients. The process changes healthcare organizations implemented for COVID are part of the solution, but the flu adds further complications. Use these steps to prepare for flu season in the time of COVID.
If the importance of hand hygiene and other infection prevention safeguards was taken for granted in healthcare settings, COVID-19 certainly intensified their importance. Masking, personal protective equipment, avoiding aerosol generating procedures when possible, handwashing and multiple other safety measures were essential to both a healthcare worker and a patient’s safety, maybe even survival. But for all the trauma the pandemic caused, some positive behavioral changes came from it, and hand hygiene is one of those areas. In fact, a JAMA Internal Medicine research study found that hand hygiene compliance reached more than 90% in March 2020. Yet in just over a year, many healthcare workers regressed to previous habits. Overall compliance dropped back to 2019 levels “averaging 50 percent across hospitals nationwide. It’s clear that regardless of all the data that highlights its importance, effective infection prevention programs remain an elusive goal.