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CA Nurses Say CDC Swine Flu Prevention Guidelines Must Be Followed

August 3, 2009

SACRAMENTO, Calif. - A California nurse has become the first health care worker in the state to die from swine flu. While it is unclear if the Sacramento-area nurse caught the flu on the job or elsewhere, there is concern for the safety of all health care workers and their patients.

Jan Rodolfo with the California Nurses Association says the woman's death should be a wake-up call for stronger enforcement of safety regulations.

"If health care workers are not protected, we can potentially get infected and actually infect patients. So either we're protected - and everybody's protected as a result - or we're putting people at risk."

H1N1 prevention guidelines published by the federal Centers for Disease Control recommend that health care workers wear a special respirator mask, which the Sacramento-area hospital says its workers have been doing. However, Rodolfo says, a number of other hospitals are falling short. A group of Bay Area nurses recently filed a complaint with the state alleging hospital management is jeopardizing their health by asking them to reuse the special masks. Hospital officials say using a single mask throughout an entire shift is sufficient, but the nurses want to swap them every time they go in and out of a sick patient's room.

Rodolfo says health care workers are especially worried about the H1N1 virus because flu season is right around the corner.

"In 1918, which is the flu that everybody points to that killed more people than World War I did, there was sort of a lighter wave of flu and then a much more serious wave that happened later. We're worried that we might be coming into that second wave."

A federal panel recommended last week that pregnant women and health care workers should be at the front of the line for swine flu vaccinations this fall.

Lori Abbott, Public News Service - CA