Tuesday, September 22, 2009

H1N1: Akron Hospitals Prepare For Outbreak

It's scary, but necessary to think about: would Akron be prepared should there be an H1N1 outbreak?

Marianne Lorini, President and CEO of the Akron Regional Hospital Association, says yes, "all of us are most concerned with the safety in our community and we've all really worked well together in preparing for any kind of pandemic." The association has received recognition for its emergency plan, which was started in 2005.

t's not just about the agency being prepared though, says Lorini. There would be a real need for community support if daycares and schools were to close due to an H1N1 outbreak. Trusted friends are asked to prepare to step up and offer to watch essential service persons children in the event of an outbreak in the Akron-area, "so that person can get to work and help people."

Hospital workers are already seeing patients who are infected by the bug, but the necessary precautions for the staff are being taken. "They are wearing the appropriate masks, promoting hand washing...they have personal protective equipment and they're telling employees if they're sick at all, to please stay home."

Dr. Diane Salisbury, with Akron General Medical Center's Infectious Disease Unit, adds "the flu virus is succeptable to almost all disinfectants so it's the normal good cleaning of the rooms with attention to high-touch areas, which is what we always do: the bed rails, call buttons, light switches, anything a lot of people touch." In general, the hospital uses bleach when they clean an isolation room and would likely do the same if an outbreak of the H1N1 strikes.

Lorini also says local hospitals are also ready for if there were to be a significant number of casualties due to the rare flu strain. Some hospitals only have room for one or two dead bodies, but there is a plan to handle such a situation. "We did talk to the funeral directors and they felt that they would be able to keep up with coming to the hospital and getting those bodies...if refrigerated trucks were needed...we would be able to call the local emergency management agency."

The protocol to handle such an outbreak isn't any different than how hospitals would handle "typical" deaths. The swine flu can't be transmitted when a person dies from it.

On the Web:

Akron Regional Hospital Association: http://arha.org/EmergencyPreparedness.aspx
Summit County Flu Page: www.summitflu.org
This link will show you flu shot locations and dates: Health Organizations Offer Flu Vaccine

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