Long-term care groups watching, waiting as government responds to swine flu crisis

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Long-term care groups watching, waiting as government responds to swine flu crisis
Long-term care groups watching, waiting as government responds to swine flu crisis
Swine flu has not, so far, affected residents or employees of nursing homes. Still, the long-term care community is staying abreast of the latest developments and information regarding the potentially deadly virus.  

"We're recommending that if facilities haven't already done so, they need to designate somebody to keep up on this," said Evvie Munley, senior health policy adviser with the American Association of Homes and Services for the Aging.

The number of confirmed cases of swine flu in the U.S. had climbed to 40 as of press time. Cases have been mild and all those infected have recovered, according to news reports. New York has the majority of reported cases of swine flu in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Nursing homes in the state are paying close attention to the government's response.  

"We're monitoring the Department of Health starting with the public health issues and we're waiting to see if there's any institutional based programs or instructions that they would advise us to do," Richard Herrick, president and CEO of the New York State Health Facilities Organization, told McKnight's. "It will be important to us if they're seeing [swine flu infections] transition to long-term care facilities or anything other than clinics and hospitals. So far we haven't seen anything."

On Sunday, the Department of Health and Human Services declared a state of emergency—a move Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano says sounds more serious than it actually is. Speaking at a press conference, Napolitano told reporters that the move is standard protocol, and serves mostly to increase access to medication and diagnostic testing equipment.

The CDC has issued guidance for both healthcare workers and the public at large concerning the best ways to prevent the spread of swine flu. If you come across a patient with swine flu symptoms in a facility such as a nursing home, the CDC recommends isolating them to prevent further infections. Here some other recommendations related to isolating residents:

•Patients with suspected or confirmed case-status should be placed in a single-patient room with the door kept closed.

•The ill person should wear a surgical mask when outside of the patient room.

•Personnel providing care to or collecting clinical specimens from suspected or confirmed cases should wear disposable non-sterile gloves, gowns, and eye protection (e.g., goggles) to prevent conjunctival exposure.

As is the case during the normal flu season, frequent hand washing is always a good way to reduce the chance of spreading infection, according to the CDC. More information for providers is available at www.cdc.gov/swineflu/guidance.

The CDC and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services already have guidelines and checklists for nursing homes when it comes to infection control, according to AAHSA. It's important for nursing homes to keep an eye on developments from the national agencies, and to keep in contact with their local health departments as well, Munley of AAHSA said.

More information on infection control, pandemic preparedness and facility response requirements can be found at the following Web sites:

www.pandemicflu.gov
www.cdc.gov/swineflu
www.cdc.gov/flu/professionals/infectioncontrol/resphygiene.htm
www.apic.org

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