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N.Y. may require masks for unvaccinated

Feb. 21, 2013 at 10:13 PM   |   Comments

ALBANY, N.Y., Feb. 21 (UPI) -- New York state officials are considering a regulation requiring staff in hospitals and other medical settings to wear a mask if they didn't get a flu shot.

The New York state Department of Health is proposing a new regulation to require personnel in regulated settings, including but not limited to: hospitals, nursing homes, diagnostic and treatment centers, home care agencies and hospices, who have not received a flu vaccination to wear a surgical or procedure mask in areas where patients might be present.

The regulation was presented at New York State Public Health and Health Planning Council and published in the State Register allowing the public an opportunity to comment.

"As caregivers to patients, including many who have chronic conditions or are more susceptible to flu infections and complications, it is vital that all healthcare workers be vaccinated against influenza," Dr. Nirav R. Shah, commissioner of health of New York, said in a statement. "This regulation will enable healthcare workers to meet their obligation to do no harm to patients."

Preventing influenza transmission from healthcare personnel to patients is a serious patient safety issue, yet the statewide hospital healthcare worker influenza rate for the 2011-12 influenza season was 48.4 percent, therefore, requiring masks for unvaccinated workers will provide an important layer of protection against influenza transmission, Shah said.

This requirement would take effect during the 2013-2014 influenza season.

The proposed regulation is open for public comment until April 1. The proposed regulation will be brought back to the New York State Public Health and Health Planning Council Codes Committee April 11, and at this time, the public will again have an opportunity to speak about the regulation in this forum.

The regulation will then be presented to the full PHHPC Council the same day -- April 11 -- for adoption.

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