Tag Archives: pandemic preparedness

Older health care professionals at risk during COVID-19 outbreak

Liz Seegert

About Liz Seegert

Liz Seegert (@lseegert), is AHCJ’s topic editor on aging. Her work has appeared in NextAvenue.com, Journal of Active Aging, Cancer Today, Kaiser Health News, the Connecticut Health I-Team and other outlets. She is a senior fellow at the Center for Health Policy and Media Engagement at George Washington University and co-produces the HealthCetera podcast.

Photo: Medical Reserve CorpsA member of the Medical Reserve Corps of
Puerto Rico conducts a medical assessment in response to an earthquake.

Retired physicians, nurses and other health care professionals have been asked to volunteer for duty in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

However, many of these retirees fall into the high-risk group for contracting COVID-19. They face a difficult choice: stay away and stay safer, or put aside the potential risk to help care for an increasingly sick population. Continue reading

Bringing pandemic preparedness alive without sparking fear

Bara Vaida

About Bara Vaida

Bara Vaida (@barav) is AHCJ's core topic leader on infectious diseases. An independent journalist, she has written extensively about health policy and infectious diseases. Her work has appeared in outlets that include the National Journal, Agence France-Presse, Bloomberg News, McClatchy News Service, MSNBC, NPR, Politico and The Washington Post.

Photo: Defence Images via Flickr

When the Atlantic’s Ed Yong began thinking about a story on health security, he realized he needed a basic definition for a core point of the story — what is emergency health preparedness?

“Something dawned on me,” Yong said. “I didn’t really understand what exactly preparedness meant. I had been writing the word for a long time and doing stories on it, but it felt a bit abstract and nebulous.” Continue reading

Resources for journalists covering flu

Andrew Van Dam

About Andrew Van Dam

Andrew Van Dam of The Wall Street Journal previously worked at the AHCJ offices while earning his master’s degree at the Missouri School of Journalism.

AHCJ member Stefanie Friedhoff has led a Nieman Foundation effort to bring together as much pandemic flu material as possible in one spot. The CoveringFlu.org guide not only helps reporters with the science, historical context and journalism involved, but also with practical safety considerations.

Much of the content came out of a 2006 conference, The Next Big (Health) Crisis – And How to Cover It, presented by the Nieman Foundation and cosponsored by AHCJ. It brought journalists together with scientists, public health officials, medical experts, academic researchers, law enforcement officers, public policy experts, and Homeland Security officials to talk about how best to prepare for the possible arrival of pandemic flu.

Read edited excerpts from a lengthy transcript from the event:

AHCJ also has these resources for journalists covering flu stories:

OIG: Are we ready for a flu pandemic?

Andrew Van Dam

About Andrew Van Dam

Andrew Van Dam of The Wall Street Journal previously worked at the AHCJ offices while earning his master’s degree at the Missouri School of Journalism.

The Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Inspector General has released two reports assessing just how prepared Americans are for a flu pandemic. Their findings? Communities are on the right track when it comes to preparing for a surge in patient numbers, but they’re not as ready as they could be. Likewise, there’s still more to be done before local organizations will be ready to distribute vaccines and antiviral drugs.h1n1

A surge of flu victims

In the Southern Hemisphere, where the flu season has already struck, the biggest systemic issue was lack of space in intensive care units overwhelmed by H1N1 victims. Are American communities doomed to more of the same? After reviewing the coordination, volunteer recruitment/organization, medical equipment, alternate care and triage and admission guidelines of 10 localities as of late summer 2008, the OIG’s answer is a resounding “not quite.” (Get the full 37-page report here.)

The OIG’s to-do list for the assistant secretary for preparedness and response?

  • Keep emphasizing those five areas that we evaluated
  • Make sure that, when states and localities do medical surge preparedness exercises, they then document and address the lessons they learned from those activities.
  • Those lessons everyone just documented? Make sure they share them with everyone else too. Preferably through the CDC. Then the feds can work to address specific local issues.
  • Consider working with states (or even the federal government) to “develop appropriate legal protections for medical professionals and volunteers who respond to public health emergencies and who may need to alter standards of care.”

Getting vaccines/antivirals to the right place, at the right time

According to HHS, “even a mild pandemic could cause between 2 million and 7.4 million deaths worldwide” and H1N1 looks to be a “moderate” one. Vaccination is a key component of the prevention plan, which is why the OIG evaluated the pandemic flu plans of 10 communities in the categories of “Receiving & Staging, Dispensing, Tracking, Vulnerable Populations, Priority Groups, Security, Storage, and Transportation.” In general, they found that the communities need to practice more, plan for all eight categories and make those plans “actionable.” In general, folks were best at planning for receiving/staging and dispensing and worst at planning for security, storage and transportation.(Read the whole 57-page report here.)

Based on those findings, the OIG recommended that the CDC:

  • Work with states to figure out why folks are still in the “early stages” of planning and help them make some progress
  • Prioritize which of the eight areas states should focus on in order to improve local readiness as quickly as possible.
  • Emphasize “actionable” plans that “identify the organizations or individuals responsible for carrying out specific actions and the sources that would be necessary to staff distribution and dispensing positions” that are “supported by valid, detailed formal agreements with partnering agencies.”
  • Again, make sure locals keep track of what they’ve learned in preparedness exercises and that they make plans to correct any deficiencies. Also, make sure they share plans and “emerging promising practices.”

S.C.: Pandemic plan handled H1N1, needs tweaking

Andrew Van Dam

About Andrew Van Dam

Andrew Van Dam of The Wall Street Journal previously worked at the AHCJ offices while earning his master’s degree at the Missouri School of Journalism.

Joey Holleman at The State reviewed South Carolina’s reaction to H1N1 and what it revealed about the state’s pandemic preparedness. Holleman found that, on the whole, state officials and health professionals felt their pandemic preparations, put in place after scares such as SARS and H5N1, had worked well and proposed only minor adjustments to the overall plan.

AHCJ resourcesAHCJ resources for covering flu, pandemics and preparedness

Holleman said those specifics include detailing school closing plans, assigning responsibility for home-quarantined patients and adjusting hospital entry traffic to keep flu sufferers isolated. Apart from those details, the state’s plans appear to be working.

So far, the state has had 36 CDC-confirmed cases of H1N1 and no reported deaths. The cornerstones of S.C.’s response have been rapid stockpiling of necessary medications and materials and rapid education of both hospital staffs and the public. For the most part, officials said, the effort was not much different than previous efforts to contain other infectious diseases like chicken pox or whooping cough.