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Political borders, health-care issues complicate pandemic planning
Date:7/7/2008

y and Emergency Management.

Influenza hospitalizes 200,000 Americans annually and kills 36,000. In 2005 global concern was raised about a possible influenza pandemic because the number of human deaths related to bird flu was increasing in some Asian countries. There is concern that if the virus were transmitted human to human, a global outbreak could result in millions of deaths. As a result, federal, state and local leaders continue to plan.

"Another significant planning concern is related to staffing, especially at alternate care sites," said Mark Lawley, an associate professor of biomedical engineering who specializes in health-care delivery systems and is part of the research team. "During a pandemic, we can expect that caregivers will become ill, some caregivers will be reluctant to work and others will stay home to care for their own family members. Many planners are suggesting alternate care sites during an outbreak, but finding additional staff members for these units will a big impediment."

As a result, alternate sites often are not a feasible alternative, Lawley said. Also, the strain on the work force will likely affect the standard of care.

"The public has expectations about the standard of health care," he said. "For example, doctors prescribe medications and nurses administer them, but what happens if one group is understaffed during a crisis? How are roles reassigned and how is that communicated to the patients?"

In addition to staffing and community coordination issues, the researchers also found that misunderstandings about projected mortality and illness rates are creating panic.

"In several counties, many planners are anticipating devastating impacts that even exceed the worst case scenarios historically," Avery said. "The confusion results in a sense of helplessness among some planning teams because they believe any planning will be rendered useless by the magnitude of the problem."


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Contact: Amy Patterson Neubert
apatterson@purdue.edu
765-494-9723
Purdue University
Source:Eurekalert

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