General Practitioners Can Help Fight Pandemic Influenza

In the latest issue of BMC Public Health, Albert Lee, a clinical professor at the School of Public Health and Primary Care at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, and Antonio Chuh, adjunct professor of applied health science at the School of Health, Physical Education and Recreation at Indiana University, say that there are many ways that general practitioners (GPs) can contribute to the fight against the influenza pandemic.

As Lee and Chuh (2010) explain, "The 2009 pandemic of H1N1 influenza, compounded with seasonal influenza, posed a global challenge. Despite the announcement of post-pandemic period on August 10, 2010 by the WHO, H1N1 (2009) virus would continue to circulate as a seasonal virus for some years and national health authorities should remain vigilant due to unpredictable behavior of the virus. The majority of the world population is living in countries with inadequate resources to purchase vaccines and stockpile antiviral drugs. Basic hygienic measures such as wearing facemasks and the practice of handwashing could reduce the spread of the respiratory viruses. However, the imminent issue is translating these measures into day-to-day practice. The experience from Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) in Hong Kong has shown that GPs were willing to discharge their duties despite risks of getting infected themselves. SARS event has highlighted the inadequate interface between primary and secondary care and valuable healthcare resources were thus inappropriately matched to community needs."

Lee and Chuh (2010) continue, "There are various ways for GPs to contribute in combating the influenza pandemic. They are prompt in detecting and monitoring epidemics and mini-epidemics of viral illnesses in the community. They can empower and raise the health literacy of the community such as advocating personal hygiene and other precautious measures. GPs could also assist in the development of protocols for primary care management of patients with flu-like illnesses and conduct clinical audits on the standards of preventive and treatment measures. GPs with adequate liaison with public health agencies would facilitate early diagnosis of patients with influenza."

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Reference: Lee A and Chuh AAT. Facing the threat of Influenza Pandemic: Roles of and Implications to General Practitioners. BMC Public Health 2010, 10:661doi:10.1186/1471-2458-10-661