Woodhull Hospital gathered more than 100 health care experts at the beginning of the month for a workshop to develop strategies on how to respond to a potential flu outbreak that could affect millions of people.
The workshop coincided with the 100th anniversary of the 1918 Influenza Pandemic, one of the most devastating infectious disease events in recorded history, infecting as many as 500 million people and killing nearly one out of 20 people worldwide.
“The increasing prevalence of infectious disease epidemics worldwide constitutes the need for a well-prepared response system,” said Syra Madad, senior director of NYC Health + Hospitals Special Pathogens Program, who lead the workshop.
Hosted by NYC Health + Hospitals in collaboration with the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, the workshop focused on how hospitals and ambulatory sites, along with local, state and national public health authorities, should prepare for and respond to the aftereffects of an influenza pandemic.
NYC Health + Hospitals experts shared lessons learned from a previous mystery patient drill that revealed potential issues when responding to an airborne, surge-type disease outbreak. Current and prospective technologies and treatments such as vaccines, antibiotic drugs, sanitation infrastructure and intensive care capacity were also discussed. Yet, while substantial advances have been made regarding public health and health care infrastructure, they may not be sufficient to fend off a flu outbreak, warned Dr. Madad.
“Despite these developments, infectious diseases are not only spreading faster at an unprecedented rate around the globe, they also appear to be emerging more quickly and are becoming increasingly difficult to treat,” said Dr. Madad. “Within just these past five years, the World Health Organization has verified more than 1,100 epidemic events worldwide. Indeed, the increasing prevalence of infectious disease epidemics worldwide makes the need for a well-prepared response system paramount.”
Takeaways from the workshop included the need to enhance tools, resources and training for health care providers; the development of an interdisciplinary, centralized network of experts to provide guidance and answers regarding clinical care protocols in real-time, and the establishment of consistent and reliable communication, coordination and collaboration between public health agencies and health care providers.
“Being ready for the next pandemic will make a difference in saving lives under challenging circumstances,” said Dr. Kevin Yeskey, principal deputy assistant secretary at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. “Through our Hospital Preparedness Program, we have found discussions like this one to be valuable steps in preparing health care systems and their staffs to overcome the potential challenges.”