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J Am Geriatr Soc. 2007 Sep;55(9):1431-7.

Pandemic influenza planning in nursing homes: are we prepared?

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Divisions of Geriatric Medicine, Department of Internal Medicine, University of Michigan Medical School, Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA.


Avian influenza or Influenza A (H5N1) is caused by a viral strain that occurs naturally in wild birds, but to which humans are immunologically naïve. If an influenza pandemic occurs, it is expected to have dire consequences, including millions of deaths, social disruption, and enormous economic consequences. The Department of Health and Human Resources plan, released in November 2005, clearly affirms the threat of a pandemic. Anticipating a disruption in many factions of society, every segment of the healthcare industry, including nursing homes, will be affected and will need to be self-sufficient. Disruption of vaccine distribution during the seasonal influenza vaccine shortage during the 2004/05 influenza season is but one example of erratic emergency planning. Nursing homes will have to make vital decisions and provide care to older adults who will not be on the initial priority list for vaccine. At the same time, nursing homes will face an anticipated shortage of antiviral medications and be expected to provide surge capacity for overwhelmed hospitals. This article provides an overview of current recommendations for pandemic preparedness and the potential effect of a pandemic on the nursing home industry. It highlights the need for collaborative planning and dialogue between nursing homes and various stakeholders already heavily invested in pandemic preparedness.

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