Immunizations encouraged for respiratory illnesses

Respiratory viral season is here. 

The United States and the local community have seen high numbers of cases of respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) already this season. Influenza activity locally has been minimal so far, but there are signs of increasing influenza activity nationally, per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. COVID cases have continued and remain the primary viral cause of hospitalization and death in adults. 

The most important means of protecting oneself is immunization. Immunization for influenza and COVID can be obtained at Nebraska Medicine pharmacies, primary care clinics and in many locations in the community. COVID-19 and influenza vaccinations are not required but are strongly encouraged for all eligible employees.

Faculty and staff are asked to document their COVID-19 and influenza vaccination status in the Health Tracking System, including if one declined the vaccinations or received them at another location. Vaccination rates for both influenza and COVID-19 vaccinations must be reported to regulatory bodies.

Students are asked to document their influenza vaccine status in the Health Tracking System and their COVID vaccine status in MyRecords. Individuals can check with their health care provider to see if they are a candidate for RSV immunization.

What should I do if I’m ill?:

  • Stay home from work and obtain viral testing. Testing is critical because treatment for infection may be available and is more effective early in the course of illness.
  • Testing for COVID-19 can be accomplished via a nasal swab home test, but there are not rapid home tests for influenza and RSV. Employee Health can arrange nasal swab testing for ill employees who have signs and symptoms of COVID-19. The test will include COVID-19, influenza and RSV during peak respiratory season — see this link for instructions on how to set up testing. The UNMC Health Center can order COVID testing for students. They also can do COVID testing in clinic, as necessary, and bill to insurance.
    • If viral swab testing is positive, there will be an isolation period. Contact Nebraska Medicine Employee Health for specifics regarding the specified time period. In general, for all respiratory viral illnesses, individuals should be fever free for 24 hours without the use of a fever-reducing medication and experiencing improvement in symptoms prior to returning to work. For influenza, this is typically three to five days. Other respiratory illnesses may be shorter or longer.
    • COVID-19 infection has a unique period of isolation, and colleagues who test positive should reach out to employee health for the latest guidance.

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