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SACRAMENTO, Calif. – UC Davis Health System faculty, staff, students, and vendors and contractors will be required to get vaccinated against the seasonal flu by Dec. 1 or wear masks covering their mouths and noses while at work or school to prevent the spread of infection.

The new, more stringent policy affects all health system clinics and facilities, including UC Davis Medical Center and facilities located both on and off the UC Davis Sacramento campus.

“This could be the worst flu season in modern history,” said Allan Siefkin, medical director of UC Davis Health System. “Seasonal flu ย— combined with novel H1N1 ย— makes the full impact of this particular flu season difficult to anticipate. We are taking every reasonable precaution as early as possible.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), seasonal flu results in 220,000 hospitalizations and 36,000 deaths each year and contributes to significant lost work hours and productivity. The best-known protection is the seasonal flu vaccine. A good flu protection for those are not vaccinated is a protective mask covering the nose and mouth.

“The new policy, along with our many other flu-prevention efforts, are intended to keep our team healthy,” said Siefkin. “We want to be here to care for our patients and to continue offering the high-quality services that our community relies on, from our level 1 trauma center and nationally designated cancer center to our children’s hospital and other specialty programs.”

Employee Health Services at the health system is providing several free seasonal flu vaccination opportunities for staff and students, beginning with a Seasonal Flu Vaccine Rally on Thursday, Oct. 8, from 10 a.m. until 3:30 p.m. in the PSSB courtyard of UC Davis Medical Center. Masks will be provided to students and staff who are not vaccinated by the Dec. 1 deadline.

Seasonal flu occurs every year, typically in late fall, winter and early spring. The vaccine for this disease changes every year based on what is known about the types and strains of seasonal flu viruses that will be prevalent in a given year. About two weeks after vaccination, antibodies providing protection against influenza virus infection develop in the body. The seasonal flu vaccine will not provide protection from H1N1 influenza, which is a new strain of infection.

“Reducing flu cases this year means that it will be important to get vaccinations for both types of flu viruses, beginning with the vaccine that is currently available,” said Siefkin. “We will be following CDC guidelines for distributing the H1N1 vaccine as soon as it is here.”

Siefkin added that the health system may require protective masks for staff and students who are not vaccinated for H1N1 sooner than Dec. 1, depending on the incidence of H1N1 flu in the region.

Detailed information on seasonal and H1N1 flu is available through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the County of Sacramento.

UC Davis Health System is an integrated, academic health system encompassing UC Davis School of Medicine, the 613-bed acute-care hospital and clinical services of UC Davis Medical Center, the 800-member physician group known as UC Davis Medical Group and the Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing.

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