BATON ROUGE—With the H1NI flu (swine flu) virus outbreak declared as a stage six pandemic by the World Health Organization, state health officials are ramping up efforts to prepare for the possibility of a more widespread pandemic striking Louisiana.
To date, there have been 153 cases of H1N1 identified in Louisiana, and 17,855 probable and confirmed cases nationwide. Forty-five deaths have been recorded in the U.S.
“While the H1N1 virus has proven to be milder than we first thought, we are focused on being ready for the coming flu season and how the virus could re-emerge,” said Alan Levine, secretary for the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals. “The devastating 1918 flu started out much like this, as a mild H1N1 virus, and then struck more forcefully in later waves. We are preparing to be ready for that possibility.”
As part of its pandemic flu planning, LDH is conducting nine regional desktop drills throughout the month of June. The exercises are designed to ready hospital response to a surge in patient capacity—in this case, a surge in patients possibly infected with the H1N1 flu.
Hospitals throughout the state will have their pandemic flu plans tested as mock flu patients steadily stream into their facilities. The drill also will test command structure, disease surveillance, medical triage, communications, internal alternate care sites, antiviral and immunization strategies, and management of mass fatalities.
To further educate and inform health care providers, LDH and other partners also have developed a web-based pandemic flu training course for physicians and nurses. The course provides general information on influenza and available antiviral therapies; lessons learned from previous pandemic outbreaks; federal, state, and local pandemic preparedness activities; and recommendations for hospital roles in influenza preparedness.
Louisiana health care professionals can participate free of charge and receive continuing medical education credits (CEUs). To sign up, visit http://nccphp.sph.unc.edu/training/HEP_LFLUP/certificate.php.The program was developed by LDH, the Louisiana Hospital Association and the Pandemic Influenza Clinical Forum in collaboration with the University of North Carolina.
“Louisiana’s healthcare facilities and providers are dedicated to ensuring the health and well being of their communities,” said Dr. Jimmy Guidry, state health officer. “These drills and professional education opportunities can help our health care workforce be even better prepared to handle pandemic flu.”
There are still local H1N1 flu outbreaks across the state and the virus continues to spread. Levine and Guidry remind Louisiana citizens to take a cautious, common-sense approach to prevent the spread of influenza.
Make sure you:
- Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze.
- Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze. Alcohol-based hand cleaners are also effective.
- Avoid close contact with sick people.
Visit www.FluLa.com for the latest information on the H1N1 virus.
The Louisiana Department of Health strives to protect and promote health statewide and to ensure access to medical, preventive and rehabilitative services for all state citizens. To learn more about LDH, visithttp://www.dhh.louisiana.gov.