Social Distancing, Not Social Networking, in Flu Season

Monday, May 4th, 2009
This post was written by Melanie Matthews

With seven confirmed cases of swine flu in New Jersey as of today — including one in our own county — it’s hard not to feel a little anxious. Rather than overreact, common sense should prevail while we consider the nonpharmaceutical community mitigation measures recommended by the CDC for states with at least one confirmed case of swine flu. These measures include home isolation of cases, frequent handwashing, and certain “social distancing interventions” — such as the cancelling of large gatherings linked to settings or institutions with laboratory-confirmed cases. For a kid-friendly lesson on handwashing, families might want to visit NSF International’s Scrub Club, a Web site that uses “Soaper Heros” like “Gel-Mo” to teach the benefits of clean hands.

For healthcare organizations, education of staff and patients may be the best medicine. A look back at the hospital reaction to the rising number of MRSA cases offers some lessons to consider during the current level 5 influenza pandemic alert. In a recent HIN e-survey, reported strategies included: “proper hand hygiene campaign among staff and physicians; reminders and education materials placed strategically throughout the medical center; and asking patients to ask their healthcare provider if he or she washed up before providing care.” Along with these basics, one hospital also implemented programs to educate patients, providers and staff members about MRSA; established protocols for the identification of patients at risk; and established protocols for the treatment of patients with MRSA.

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