Thursday, November 23, 2006
National Influenza Vaccination Week

By Dr. Anthony Policastro

Every year we experience a flu epidemic. Some years the epidemic is mild. That was true in 2005 Ð 2006. In years like that about 1 in 20 people get the flu. In bad years, it can go up as high as 1 in 5 people. Usually, more than 200,000 people are hospitalized from influenza complications every year. In addition, about 36,000 people die from influenza. Most of the deaths occur in the elderly. A significant number occur in younger people with other risk factors. Vaccination is the best way to prevent influenza and its complications. Anyone who wants to reduce his or her risk for getting influenza should be vaccinated during each influenza season. Annual influenza vaccination is recommended for several groups of individuals. One of those groups is related to age. Individuals over 50 years should receive the vaccine. Young children between 6 months and 5 years have recently been added to the list. A second group includes those people with certain medical conditions. Pregnancy counts as a medical condition for vaccination. Other conditions include things like diabetes, asthma or kidney disease. Age is not an issue. Individuals of any age with these conditions are included. The next group includes individuals who care for patients at high risk of getting the flu. The largest number of individuals in this group are health care workers. We know that the influenza is contagious before symptoms actually begin. Thus health care workers can infect their patients without even knowing that they have the flu. Since health care workers treat high-risk patients, they can put those patients at risk. When I was in the military it was mandatory to get the vaccine. Most hospitals had a rate above 99% for vaccination. In the civilian world, there is less opportunity to make it mandatory. Hospitals average only about 40% of their employees getting vaccinated. For that reason, if you are hospitalized with a chronic medical condition during flu season, you should ask your caregivers if they have had the vaccine. If they say no, you should ask for a different person to take care of you. This year for the first time, health care workers who refuse the vaccine have to sign a statement declaring that they are refusing to do so. They can no longer just skip it entirely. It is for the protection of their patients. Most patients in nursing homes are at high risk. We have clearly shown that this group will have increased deaths if the employees do not have flu vaccine. Therefore, the rates in those facilities are usually over 90%. It is likely that the risks are the same in the hospital. However, patients stay for such brief periods that we are not able to prove that unvaccinated hospital personnel increase the death rates for their patients. It is likely to be the case. It is just not yet proven. If you are someone who provides care for a high-risk relative or friend, you also should be getting the vaccine. It will help protect them. The United States Department of Health and Human Services as joined with several other nationwide groups to raise influenza vaccine awareness. They have announced a National Influenza Vaccination Week (NIVW). It will take place from Monday, Nov. 27, through Sunday, Dec. 3. If you are one of the eligible individuals, now is the time to plan for that vaccination.

Dr. Anthony Policastro is medical director at Nanticoke Memorial Hospital.

Health Bulletins

Delaware Hospice holds groundbreaking ceremony
Delaware Hospice recently held a groundbreaking ceremony for the new Delaware Hospice Center in Milford on Fri., Nov. 3. Over 200 guests attended the ceremony. The Delaware Hospice Center will serve families throughout the state of Delaware and will be the first hospice center to serve Kent and Sussex counties.

Wayne and Betsy Holden, co-chairs of the Community Campaign to Expand Delaware Hospice, announced that the center will be built through the capital campaign whose goal is to raise $4 million. In her opening remarks, Delaware Hospice president and CEO Susan Lloyd stated, "Our vision for the Delaware Hospice Center developed from a statewide needs assessment that we undertook several years ago, which clearly indicated that citizens of Delaware needed and desired expanded options for end-of-life care. Today we take the next step to fulfill our promise and intention to respond to those needs." The future Delaware Hospice Center will feature sixteen patient and family suites, a Family Support and Counseling Center, a Community Resource Center, a Meditation Room, and new offices for our home-based services and administrative staff. Families will be able to enjoy the kitchens, dining rooms and sitting rooms with alcoves for visiting children to play. The center will be available to patients of all ages. Professional hospice care will be available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Special recognition was given to campaign co-chairs, Llaird and Peg Stabler; and to significant contributors to date, including: Mike Harrington, Lillian Burris, Bob Dickerson and Lida Wells, the team leaders of support committees; the Welfare Foundation; The Longwood Foundation; Crystal Trust; the State of Delaware; the Bank of America; and the Carl M. Freeman Foundation. To learn more about the Delaware Hospice Center and the Community Campaign to Expand Delaware Hospice, contact Manny Arencibia, vice president of development, 800-838-9800 x131 or visit

Public Health flu vaccination
Delaware's Division of Public Health announces its influenza vaccination schedule for Delawareans without a healthcare provider or whose insurance does not cover flu shots. While many DPH adult clinics accept walk in clients, DPH will vaccinate children by appointment only on scheduled days. Medicare Part B and donations are accepted. Sussex County adult clinics
Nov. 28, Tuesday Blades Fire Hall, 200 East 5th St., Blades, 4-7 p.m. Walk In
Dec. 7, Thursday, Blades Fire Hall, 200 East 5th St., Blades, 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Walk In
Children under the age of 18 will be seen by appointment only at the DPH Clinics and State Service Centers. Parents or guardians interested in making appointments for flu shots may call one of these DPH clinics.
Sussex County, Georgetown State Service Center, 856-5213
Sussex County, Shipley State Service Center, 628-2006
For more about flu clinic locations and dates, go to

Delaware Hospice Festival of Trees
The festival in Georgetown is Dec. 1-3 at Del Tech. Festivities include a gala and live and silent auction on Dec. 1; and a holiday and collectibles auction as well as lunch with Santa on Dec. 2. Daily events include a gift shop, bake shop, raffles, and craft elves. General admission is $3 for adults and $1 for students.

Grotto Festival of Trees
The Alzheimer's Association Delaware Valley Chapter is participating in the Grotto Festival of Trees. LifeCare at Lofland Park's Memory Walk Team for 2007 will sponsor a tree at the Grand Slam in Seaford. Make plans to visit one of this location before January 1 to make your donation in support of the Alzheimer's Association to fund local programs and services. Each store will donate an additional $250 to the charity whose tree receives the most donations. For more information, call the Georgetown Office at 854-9788.