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Care homes vulnerable to pandemic flu

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More than half the nursing homes in the US would not know what to do if pandemic flu hit the country, says a paper published online in Journal of the American Medical Association this week.

The study involved 453 nursing homes in Nebraska and Michigan. They were sent a questionnaire to ask them how prepared they were for a global outbreak of flu.

It found 52% did not have any pandemic flu plan, while 23% did have one and a further 25% had a pandemic response within a disaster plan. Less than half the homes had provided pandemic education to staff and only 6% had conducted pandemic exercises. However, half had stockpiled gloves, hand hygiene and other products.

‘If nursing homes are called upon to serve as alternative care centres for patients who can’t be treated in overcrowded hospitals, the impact on them could be vast,’ said Philip Smith, professor and head of infectious diseases at the University of Nebraska.

‘While most facilities felt that nursing homes were being counted on to take hospital overflow patients in a pandemic, in reality few would be able to do so,’ he said.

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