Hospital workers are doing everything in their power to prevent patients from unnecessary harm or illness. So, as the winter chill starts to set in, why not perform one simple task that's in keeping with that mission?

Sunday marked the start of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention's National Influenza Vaccination Week, which runs through Saturday, Dec. 13. The CDC notes that some 380,000 Americans were hospitalized in 2012 because of the flu, and more than 30 million people were affected by the disease that same year. The American Hospital Association has joined with the CDC and several other like-minded organizations this year as part of a campaign called "United Against the Flu," looking to encourage folks throughout the industry to get their shots.

The AHA's board of trustees has endorsed mandatory policies that require hospital workers to either get a flu vaccination or wear protective masks when in the presence of patients during flu season. John Combes, M.D., senior vice president of the AHA, says there's one clear message that hospital leaders should be sending to their workers. "Get vaccinated," he says. "This is a patient safety issue as well as a health care worker safety issue. Having close contact within a hospital and with patients coming in with flu provide the proper environment for the spread of the disease, and the most effective defense is vaccination. So, all health care workers, anybody who works in the hospital, should get vaccinated."

Hospitals also should spread the word in their communities about the importance of getting vaccinated and that the vaccinations are readily accessible.

"Vaccinations are widely available now, and you can get them in pharmacies, in your local physician's office or in outpatient clinics, so access should not be an issue," Combes says. "Encourage the widespread vaccination of the community, and most of all, of your employees."