Measures To Limit Effects Of Pandemic Flu On Nursing Homes

July 22, 2008

By Flinn Foundation

[Source: ScienceDaily] – The greatest danger in a pandemic flu outbreak is that it could spread quickly and devastate a broad swath of people across the United States before there is much of a chance to react. The result could be a nation brought to its knees by a disease run rampant.

Among those most vulnerable to a pandemic flu outbreak are the 2.5 million residents of the nation’s 18,000 residential care (nursing home) facilities. Because there are few anti-virals and no vaccines available to combat such a flu epidemic, these facilities most likely will try to prevent introduction of the flu through non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPI), like the use of masks, social distancing, isolating symptomatic persons, etc.

But among NPI interventions, which methods or combinations of methods will work and be effective in keeping the flu outside the walls of a facility or keep the flu spread to a minimum among a population that literally will be sitting ducks in the path of the disease?

Now, a team of researchers, including one from Arizona State University, has taken a major step in determining what will work by developing mathematical models and testing scenarios that show which NPIs are appropriate for which levels of pandemic flu. Their work is published in an early on-line edition of the journal Proceedings of National Academy of Sciences on July 21, 2008.

“Our work is the first to provide a flexible road map for prevention and protection of vulnerable populations living in residential care facilities, said Gerardo Chowell-Puente, an assistant professor in ASU’s School of Human Evolution and Social Change.

“We found that something previously considered implausible — the protection of a health care institution against pandemic influenza by using only non-pharmaceutical measures — may be possible and may be practical,” Chowell-Puente said. “We want this work to get those concerned with mitigating the impact of pandemic influenza in such facilities to evaluate and consider implementation of the recommendations implicit in our study.”

In “Protecting residential care facilities from pandemic influenza,” authors Miriam Nu