We deal with the wide range of homeland security issues: terrorism, critical infrastructure, emergency response and management, policy, strategy, disasters, pandemics, public health, safety, preparedness and education.
HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said today that her department would review its disaster preparedness plan in the wake of difficulties to manufacture and distribute H1N1 vaccine for this year's flu season.
"In an effort to proactively address the ongoing pandemic, the President signed a National Emergency Declaration on H1N1 that allows healthcare systems to quickly implement disaster plans should they become overwhelmed.
As experts expected, H1N1 flu is moving rapidly throughout the country and the majority of states now have widespread influenza activity. This declaration gives authority for the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to waive certain regulatory requirements for healthcare facilities in response the ongoing pandemic. Specifically, healthcare facilities will be able to submit waivers to establish alternate care sites, and modified patient triage protocols, patient transfer procedures and other actions that occur when they fully implement disaster operations plans."
The Centers for Disease and Control has released new H1N1 flu guidelines for institutions of higher education. From the preface:
This document provides guidance to help decrease the spread of flu among students, faculty, and staff of institutions of higher education (IHE) and post-secondary educational institutions during the 2009-2010 academic year. The guidance expands upon earlier guidance for these settings by providing a menu of tools that IHE and health officials can choose from based on conditions in their area. It recommends actions to take now (during this academic year), suggests strategies to consider if the flu starts causing more severe disease than during the spring/summer 2009 H1N1 outbreak, and provides a checklist for making decisions. Detailed information on the reasons for these strategies and suggestions on how to use them is included in the Technical Report. Based on the severity of 2009 H1N1 flu-related illness thus far, this guidance also recommends that students, faculty, and staff with flu-like illness remain home until 24 hours after resolution of fever without the use of fever-reducing medications.
Department of Commerce (DOC) Secretary Gary Locke, Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Janet Napolitano this week announced new guidance for businesses to plan for and respond to the upcoming flu season.
The guidance, released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), is designed to help employers prepare now for the impact of seasonal and 2009 H1N1 influenza could have this fall and winter on their employers and operations.
A group of seven unions has released "Health Care Workers In Peril: Preparing to Protect Worker Health and Safety During Pandemic Influenza," a new report based on a survey of health care workers.
From the executive summary:
An influenza pandemic is projected to have a global impact requiring a sustained, large scale response from the healthcare community to provide care to sick patients. Health care workers will be at very high risk of becoming infected when caring for patients with pandemic flu unless adequate health and safety measures are in place, in advance of the pandemic, that will protect them.
There is no existing comprehensive federal OSHA standard with mandatory and enforceable provisions that require planning and preparation designed to protect health care workers from exposures to pandemic influenza. Nevertheless, it is essential that workplaces plan and prepare for safety and health issues before the flu arrives. In an effort to assess the extent of employer efforts in planning adequate safety and health measures for health care workers, a group of unions developed a “pandemic flu preparedness survey” to assess the level of preparedness on a facility basis.
The survey was distributed to union leaders across the country who represent healthcare workers in unionized facilities. One hundred four (104) facility surveys were collected by six unions in fourteen states. The results of the survey indicate that health care facilities have made some progress in preparing for an influenza pandemic but much more needs to be done.