Reporters covering the flu season know it has been one of the most severe in the past decade. As of early February, the number of people who have visited a doctor due to the flu had exceeded the 2009 swine flu pandemic. Public health officials have known since last fall that this flu season was likely to be severe, yet the health system had trouble keeping up. Hospitals have been overwhelmed. There have been shortages of antivirals, IV saline bags and flu shots. Dozens of children have died.
What does that say about the U.S. health system’s readiness for handling infectious disease outbreaks? We are among the wealthiest nations in the world, and yet every year the health system has trouble convincing people to get the flu vaccine and has further difficulty caring for those who get ill. Continue reading
Image: NIAID via FlickrColorized transmission electron micrograph showing H1N1 influenza virus particles.
Population explosion, ease of travel and factory farming of animals are all reasons that a flu pandemic – a fast-spreading, contagious flu with high mortality – is inevitable, public health experts said during an Oct. 10 AHCJ webcast on pandemic preparedness.
“What is the possibility of a pandemic? It’s absolute. It will happen,” said webcast participant Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota. “Are we ready? The bottom line is that we are not.” Continue reading
Photo: National Weather Service
As the humanitarian crisis brought by Hurricane Harvey continues to unfold in Texas and Louisiana, health reporters are filing valuable stories on how hospitals in the region are holding up amid the devastating floods and displacement of thousands of residents.
You can read about how hospitals are coping in the Houston Chronicle, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Modern Healthcare and others.
Procedures and protocols put in place in Houston-area hospitals in recent years are being tested to the limit right now. Beyond hospital capabilities, displaced residents who fled rising waters in their homes are, in some cases, telling journalists they are without needed medications.