RENO, Nev. (KRNV & MyNews4.com) -- With flu cases reaching epidemic levels in many parts of the country, the vaccination of medical employees is a hot topic.
Dr. Daniel Spogen, chair of family and community medicine for the University of Nevada medical school, says it's necessary and if you're feeling sick it's too late to prevent spreading the infection to others.
"The problem is once you're exposed you can carry the illness for several days and during that period of time share that illlness with other people before you come down with symptoms," Spogen said.
St. Mary's Chief Nursing Officer Katie Grimm says the only reason not to get the shot is if you don't meet the medical requirements.
"There's no other reason," Grimm said. "Some people believe that it gives them the flu, but that's not accurate."
Both the University and St. Mary's highy recommend the shots to employees.
Barton Memorial Hospital in South Lake Tahoe requires anyone who doesn't get a flu shot to wear a mask if they're near patients.
As of today, so does Carson-Tahoe Regional Medical Center.
Washoe County Health District has a similar internal rule - anyone who works in a clinical capacity must get the shot - or possibly have to wear a mask. It's up to the health officer to decide.
Northern Nevada Medical Center and Renown also highly encourage employees to get the shots.
All of the companies offer free flu shots to their employees.
Both Spogen and Grimm say the benefits of getting a flu shot greatly outweigh the risks especially if you work in a medical setting near patients who have compromised immune systems.
"If you're taking care of a patient who's not that healthy - say they're diabetic - they're less able to handle that virus and if you expose them to that virus, that could mean a hospitalization for them," Spogen said.
And with peak flu season on its way, time is running out.
"Now's the time," Spogen said.
"If you haven't done it as of today, get it tomorrow," Grimm said.
The shots can take weeks to become effective and flu season is expected to hit its peak here soon.
Dr. Spogen says we will likely see record numbers of flu cases here, just like they've been seeing on the east coast.