Patients and visitors at Hillsboro Community Hospital will be able to breathe easier?literally?thanks to years of bio-terrorism preparedness training.
As public health officials throughout the United States and across the world are investigating multiple outbreaks of swine flu, Hillsboro Community Hospital and other hospitals are putting in to place the training and supplies they have amassed since 9/11 and the anthrax scares in 2001.
The Swing Flu, H1N1, is a respiratory disease of pigs caused by a type A influenza virus that has mutated to infect humans.
Although most cases of swine flu do not infect humans, this strain appears to be a novel virus?one that was previously unfamiliar to public health experts.
As a result of intense planning over the past few years, HCH is better prepared than ever to respond to the swine flu outbreak, according to officials.
?Preparedness is always a work in progress, but HCH and other hospitals throughout the state have been planning and preparing for this type of incident,? said Mike Ryan, chief executive officer.
?Supplies and equipment have been purchased with grants from the Department of Homeland Security.?
HCH staff are assessing available supplies and medications. And they are putting universal precautions into place.
?When a patient presents in the ER with a fever, respiratory symptoms and a positive test for the flu, staff will don N95 air masks,? said Ken Johnson, respiratory therapist and bio-terrorism coordinator.
?The masks are worn to protect staff from any airborne viruses, and to prevent the staff from passing the virus to other patients and visitors.?
In some cases, a full head mask, called a MaxAir, may be worn by staff. Some staff members cannot wear the N95 mask because of improper fit or conditions such as asthma.
In addition, HCH has created a negative air flow room for isolation and to keep the indoor air clean.
?The negative air flow room sends the contaminated air through two HEPA filters to remove all airborne particles and viruses. The clean air is then released outside,? Johnson said. ?The air is perfectly clean after having gone through the filters.?
Patients who suspect they might have swine flu should first call their physician?s office. It is strongly urged that patients do not go to hospital emergency rooms unless they are experiencing severe signs of illness. This will help prevent the spread of the virus.
HCH is working with the Kansas Department of Health and Environment and other state officials. Staff have attended webinar trainings and conference calls. HCH staff have also been working closely with the Marion County Health Department and St. Luke Hospital in Marion to address the evolving H1N1 flu virus.
The Marion County Health Department has the lead responsibility for determining the course of action in responding to any outbreak of the disease.
Official information about the outbreak of the virus and its spread throughout is available at the Web site of KDHE (www.swinefluks.org) and the Centers for Diseas Control (www.cdc.gov/swineflu/).