Home Health and Hospice Response to H1N1 Flu
As Louisiana has its first cases of H1N1 flu confirmed, the toll that this virus is taking has long begun. It seems as though not one but two diagnoses need to be addressed with urgency. The first is the H1N1 flu and the second is the swine flu anxiety.
Last Sunday I turned on the news to listen to the updates and it was overwhelming. Although there were only a handful of cases confirmed or suspected in the United States, the constant repetitious news coverage made it seem like so many more. Make no mistake. This flu is not to be ignored and overlooked but the reality is that it is expressing itself as not much more than an inconvenience at this time.
Consider that the CDC is only able to process 100 samples a day. That means that the number of people who are actually infected by swine flu is far greater than the number of confirmed cases. And yet, thus far, nobody outside of Mexico has died except for the one tragic death of a toddler who lived in Mexico and came to the US shortly before his death. Our hospitals are not being overrun with suspected cases.
But our patients are afraid. Our own red flags have been alerted. Nobody in our profession has actually practiced during a pandemic before. The H1N1 flu situation warrants close monitoring to be sure. But at the end of the day, we already know how to take care of sick people. And that’s what this virus will require of us.
And it will require our nursing skills and experience to alleviate the fears of our staff and our patients. Lives do not have to be interrupted. On admission, every home health and hospice patient is taught about infection control. These precautions protect our patients from myriad diseases. And now is a good time to reinforce these teachings while at the same time, explaining to patients that he risk is low – especially for home bound patients!
Visitors and family members who have recently travelled to Mexico and children from schools that are closed because of an outbreak should generally stay away from patients. Explain that there is medication that can be used to treat this flu. In some hospice cases, the benefit of sequestering family members versus the pain it may cause must be considered taught and the family should make that decision. But at the end of the day, the same advice applies to all patients and staff. Eat well, get enough rest, practice hand washing and do not risk unnecessary exposure.
Many of us have been curious about the origins of this virus. I think the answer may be provided in the picture below of Blake Theriot Knoll of Delray Beach, Fl and his first love.