The outbreak of the new H7N9 avian flu in China, which the World Health Organization (WHO) called "an unusually dangerous virus for humans," should be an incentive for a renewed look at infection control procedures and pandemic readiness, which includes proper protection of healthcare staff.
Taiwanese news agency CNA is reporting that "three hospital staff show symptoms after H7N9 contact [with the victim of the first reported case in Taiwan]."
Darrell Henry, executive director of the Healthcare Coalition for Emergency Preparedness, emphasizes, "We need to relook at a major exposure of healthcare providers to an airborne pathogen and its effect on health care delivery system, including the potential for medical waste containing such pathogens infecting the healthcare staff and others during an outbreak."
Keiji Fukuda, WHO's assistant director-general for health, security, and the environment, told a news conference in Beijing on Wednesday, "We think this virus is more easily transmitted from poultry to humans than [the bird flu outbreak between 2004 and 2007]," which caused 332 deaths. Fukuda adds, "This is definitely one of the most lethal influenza viruses that we have seen so far."
As the CDC noted on its H7N9 web page, "Influenza viruses constantly change and it's possible that this virus could become able to easily and sustainably spread between people, triggering a pandemic." During the previous bird flu outbreak, President Obama's emergency declaration cited that the potential exists for the pandemic to over burden hearth care resources in some localities.
"We cannot afford to allow preventable gaps in preparedness and infection control to jeopardize the integrity of our healthcare system, including the safety of our health care providers," says Henry. "Paramount to emergency preparedness and pandemic containment is the need for full hospital operational sustainability of hospitals and treatment centers. The coalition is encouraging policy makers and preparedness experts to review vaccine issues, flexible hospital capacity, staffing shortfalls, and the need for infection control technologies to dispose of infectious materials on site at healthcare facilities."
The Healthcare Coalition for Emergency Preparedness's mission is to raise awareness and provide education about health care facility operational sustainability during a crisis. The coalition consists of hospitals, waste solutions companies, and others who are committed to ensuring a safe and clean medical waste disposal system that fully considers the challenges of maintaining healthcare facility sustainability during healthcare emergencies, transportation breakdowns, and patient surges.
Source: Healthcare Coalition for Emergency Preparedness