How hospital workers are staying healthy during the bad flu season

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How hospital workers are staying healthy during the bad flu season. Ali Gorman reports during Action News at 5 p.m. on February 16, 2018. (WPVI)

It continues to be an especially bad flu season, and now we're learning the effectiveness of this year's flu vaccine could be the worst we've seen in a decade.

But some hospitals in our area have found a way to help protect their workers, despite being surrounded by the virus every day.

The theory is the more flu vaccine you have over the years -- meaning getting a flu shot every season -- the more likely you are to be protected.

One local emergency room chief says that is one reason his staff has stayed healthy.

Doctor Alfred Sacchetti is Chief of Emergency Services at Our Lady of Lourdes in Camden. He says throughout the past several weeks, there's always about 10 to 15 flu patients in the emergency room.

"I would say on any given day the staff has probably been sneezed on, coughed on, a snuggly runny nose kid has kissed them at least a dozen times," says Sacchetti.

But despite this, the majority of doctors, nurses and techs here have remained flu-free. He says it is partly due to good hand-washing and other prevention practices, but it can also be attributed to yearly flu shots.

Since 2014, the hospital has required the staff to get vaccinated.

Doctor Sacchetti says that helps your body build up a library of exposure to different types of the virus.

"So when a really novel one comes in, your immune system can go back and say gee I remember three years ago, four years ago I saw something similar to that and can mount an antibody response so they don't get the flu," Sacchetti says.

And there is research to back up this theory.

Some experts say yearly flu shots can be especially helpful in bad years like this one, where the one vaccine hasn't been a great match.

The CDC released new numbers, showing this year's vaccine has so far been 36-percent effective overall for adults, and 59-percent effective overall for kids.

Nationwide, the number of children who've died related to flu complications is at 84.

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