Ontario hospital to require flu shots or masks for staff

Hospitals in London, Ontario announced that next week they will require staff, doctors and visitors to get flu shots or wear masks when they are in a ward with a hospital-acquired influenza case.

The Canadian city is currently suffering through its worst flu season in years. On Wednesday, a flu outbreak was declared at London's University Hospital for the second time in less than a week. The outbreak occurred on the northeast corridor of the seventh floor, a wing where patients are treated for neurological disorders, the London Free Press reports.

If the requirement had gone into effect this week, it would have meant masks on sections of wards on three separate floors of University Hospital. Approximately 55 percent of staff members are vaccinated for influenza.

University Hospital is experiencing difficulty isolating patients with the flu in their own rooms. In one instance, a patient who suffered a seizure and received emergency surgery to remove a tumor was placed in a hospital room with a man suspected of having influenza.

Cathy Vandersluis, the London Health Sciences Center's director of infection safety, said that isolating flu patients is not always possible in London.

"We've had a very busy hospital," Vandersluis said, according to the London Free Press. "When a family expresses a concern like that, we do take it seriously."

A lack of vaccinated healthcare workers in local hospitals is a problem that further complicates the influenza issue.

Allison McGeer, the director of infectious disease at Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto, said that thousands of Canadians die annually because of healthcare workers who do not get flu shots, the London Free Press reports.