An influenza pandemic will likely overburden the healthcare system. Hospitals, long-term care facilities, clinics, home health care agencies and first responders will play a key role in managing the details of working through a pandemic. Therefore, planning for pandemic influenza is essential. Healthcare providers are encouraged to develop pandemic influenza plans and collaborate with other local response partners to better prepare for an influenza pandemic.
Infection Control Principles
The following infection control principles provided by the US Department of Health and Human Services apply in any setting where persons with pandemic influenza might seek and receive healthcare services:
- Limit contact between infected and non-infected persons
- Protect persons caring for influenza patients in healthcare settings from contact with the pandemic influenza virus.
- Contain infectious respiratory secretions.
In the event of an influenza pandemic, hospitals across the nation will be inundated with patients presenting with influenza signs and symptoms. It is vital that hospitals plan ahead for this surge of patients through planning meetings with local response partners and the creation of a surge plan and pandemic influenza plan. It is also important that hospital planners update their continuity of operations plan and infection control plan to prepare their hospital for a possible influenza pandemic.
During an influenza pandemic, community clinics will see a surge in the number of patients presenting with influenza signs and symptoms. This surge of patients will undoubtedly overwhelm the community clinic. It is likely that a number of patients that show up at the local clinics will need a higher level of care than can be offered at the clinic. A plan must be in place to ensure that patients that present to the clinic with symptoms that require higher level of care are able to receive that care whether at your clinic or at another facility offering a higher level of care. This is just one of the many reasons that it is so important that community clinics work together with local hospitals and the Local Health Department to plan and prepare for a possible influenza pandemic.
Long Term Care Facilities
Long term care facilities present special circumstances when it comes to pandemic influenza. A majority of the people residing at long term care facilities have one or more risk factors that make them more prone to the effects of an influenza pandemic than the general population. Having a plan in place to help mitigate the effects of a pandemic on this vulnerable population is critical to their survival. Collaborating with local response partners is a key part of the planning process that needs to take place in order to create a successful plan.
EMS organizations will be involved in the triage, treatment, and transport of acutely ill patients with known or suspected pandemic influenza to emergency departments; some of these patients might require mechanical ventilation for life support and/or other lifesaving interventions. Non-emergent (medical) transport providers will be called upon to transport recovering pandemic influenza patients to their home, residential care facility, or possibly to alternate care sites set up by state or local health departments. Being first responders during a pandemic poses great risk for EMS providers. To reduce the risk, it is important that EMS providers plan ahead.
Additional information for Health Professionals