With flu season just around the corner, Fresenius Medical Care North America (FMCNA), the nation’s leading network of dialysis facilities, is urging dialysis patients to get flu shots to protect themselves against this common infectious disease. In October, FMCNA will begin offering at no cost to all of its dialysis patients and staff, flu vaccinations, which protect against both seasonal flu and H1N1 swine flu. While many flu sufferers experience relatively minor symptoms – including fatigue, fever and chills, headache and body aches, nasal congestion and coughing – the flu can pose a much more serious health threat to dialysis patients, whose weakened immune systems make them susceptible to pneumonia and other life-threatening complications. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advises chronic kidney disease (CKD) patients, particularly older adults and those on dialysis, to be vaccinated against the flu every year. CKD is a progressive, usually permanent loss of kidney function. Many people who have CKD are still in the early stages of the disease, but by the time CKD leads to kidney failure, or end-stage renal disease (ESRD), the only treatments are a kidney transplant or dialysis. Dialysis is a life-sustaining process that cleans waste products from the blood, removes extra fluids and controls the body’s chemistry when a person’s kidneys fail. Dialysis patients typically require treatment on an ongoing basis unless they receive a kidney transplant. “It’s important for all kidney patients to be vaccinated against the flu because of the serious health complications it can cause,” says Dr. Jeffrey L. Hymes, MD, Senior Vice President and Associate Chief Medical Officer at FMCNA. “We also urge patients and medical staff to take precautions to protect themselves from catching and spreading flu viruses.” Patients should inquire at their local dialysis clinic about specific vaccination opportunities near them. Besides getting a flu shot, Fresenius Medical Care offers these tips to help dialysis patients avoid catching, or spreading, the flu this season:
- Flu viruses is transmitted mainly by airborne droplets, so remember to cover your nose and mouth when you cough or sneeze – and dispose of used tissues properly.
- Wash your hands with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer after coughing, sneezing or using a tissue.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
- If you have signs of the flu when you come in for dialysis, tell your caregivers before entering the clinic, so that they can provide you with a mask to protect other patients and staff.
- If you get a flu shot elsewhere, let your caregiver know, so that they can include this information in your medical records.