?are we prepared? When hospitals fill up, we’ll use nursing homes?are they ready? – In the July 21st edition of the Independent, Ben Russell writes that the world is failing to guard against the inevitable spread of a devastating flu pandemic which could kill 50 million people and wreak massive disruption around the globe. And one place where flu would spread quickly but plans haven?t been made is in nursing homes, whose residents are some of the most vulnerable to flu.

Russell quotes a UK government official as saying, “While there has not been a pandemic since 1968, another one is inevitable.” The British government is calling for a coordinated effort among developed nations to recognize outbreaks of potentially new disease strains in third-world countries before they are brought over by tourists and migrant workers.

Many of us here in the US don’t realize that if regular hospitals become overwhelmed with flu patients, doctors are counting on nursing homes to assist with the patient overflow, but a new study suggests that many are not prepared for such a task.

Of the more than 400 nursing homes in the study, just 2% had a specific pandemic influenza plan. Another quarter of the nursing homes had a pandemic response incorporated into an overall disaster response plan. And more than half not have any pandemic plan.

Infectious diseases expert Philip W. Smith says, “If nursing homes are called upon to serve as alternative care centers for patients who can’t be treated in overcrowded hospitals, the impact on the nursing homes could be vast. Nursing homes serve a vulnerable population prone to dire consequences from an emergency.”

Art credit: freeimages.co.uk

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