By Tessa Jaqua
H1N1 will forever live in infamy in the minds of public health professionals and healthcare providers alike. It stands as the pinnacle of pandemic preparedness and lessons learned. When it was over and the dust had settled, state and county public health departments put all those quickly developed plans on the shelf to—hopefully—sit, unused for a good long while.
Then, in March of 2013, rumors started crossing the seas, whispers of H7N9 and human infection grew louder, and by April the World Health Organization announced that avian influenza A (H7N9), a type of flu usually seen in birds, has been identified in a number of people in China. Human infections with a new avian influenza A (H7N9) virus continue to be reported in China, with 131 cases and 36 deaths as of May 17. There was some mild illness in humans, however most patients have had severe respiratory distress. There have been no cases of H7N9 reported outside of China, and the CDC is not sounding the alarm quite yet, but this is an excellent time to dust off those plans and review the lessons we learned from the H1N1. If for no other reason, it’s always good to be prepared, just in case.
3 Ps of pandemic flu preparedness:
Plan Review: Remember all those notebooks, excel documents, word files, etc. that were filled to the brim with pressing and important preparedness and response information during H1N1 and possibly H1N5? Get them out, open them up, and review them. H7N9 may become pandemic in the fall, or maybe in 2015, or possibly never, but when you’ve planned and prepared for this before, it’s always important to review and update regularly.
Partner Check-up: We have lists and lists of push partners and community resources, but when was the last time they were updated? Are you sure that Tracy Smith is still the administrator of that residential care facility? Refresh the list, update numbers, addresses, and add or delete partners. These lists hold the key to true community response so it is integral that they be as current and as useful as possible.
Public Prevention: The best time to prepare for a pandemic outbreak is before it happens. Redouble your efforts to communicate disease prevention strategies to the public and communicate regularly with partners. Provide health literate, continual, easy access to preparedness tips and flu facts in redundant locations. Remember there is no such thing as being over-prepared.
H7N9 might not be a big bad pandemic flu strain yet, but the risk reminds us that preparation is our best defense.
For more information about the H7N9 strain visit the CDC website HERE.
Second 2013 coalition roundtable scheduled
Immunize Oregon is excited to announce their second 2013 Round Table. This free, full day event will be held in La Grande, Oregon on Wednesday, June 19th from 9-4:30. Immunization updates including ALERT IIS, statewide immunization rates, and VFC developments will be covered. Dr. Jay Rosenbloom will give his keynote presentation: “Addressing Vaccine Resistance.”
The roundtable event is a wonderful opportunity for providers and interested stakeholders to learn more about immunizations. For more information, please visit our website, http://www.healthoregon.org/immunizeoregon or click here to register.