Local Politics

Dozens of Wake County employees required to get flu shots this year

Posted September 22, 2020 4:28 p.m. EDT
Updated September 22, 2020 7:58 p.m. EDT

— In preparation for fighting flu season and the coronavirus pandemic simultaneously, Wake County officials are requiring some staffers to get a flu shot.

All 150 people who work in the county's emergency operations center, which is dedicated to fighting the pandemic, must be vaccinated against the flu so they can keep working, officials said Tuesday.

"The EOC staff are critical infrastructure and critical staffing, and we want to make sure that all of our employees are healthy and doing well, and as a part of that, having that flu shot to help prevent the flu is key," said Dr. Nicole Mushonga, an epidemiologist with Wake County Human Services.

Officials said the flu shot is a condition of employment for those workers, meaning they could be fired for refusing to get one. Wake County has more than 4,000 employees, so the flu shot mandate affects fewer than 5 percent of the staff.

"It’s still important that our community knows that getting their flu shot every year is important but especially this year is important," Mushonga said. "We don’t want to have that strain on our hospital system, of people having both COVID and the flu."

Some staff also will begin working remotely to lessen the chances of an outbreak in the emergency operations center, she said.

"The numbers [of people in the center] are decreased as we move further into the season," she said.

The pandemic presents a silver lining of sorts, she said, because the things that prevent the spread of coronavirus also will prevent the spread of the flu this year.

"[That's] wearing a mask, staying 6 feet away – so keeping your distance from people – but also washing your hands frequently," she said.

One of the difficulties with the so-called "twindemic" is the similarities in the symptoms of the two respiratory infections, Mushonga said.

"A lot of the symptoms are very similar – the chills, fever," she said. "One of the things that stands out about COVID is the loss of smell and of taste."

County health officials said most people over the age of 6 months should get a flu shot by the end of October to help keep outbreaks down.

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