Physicians and patients battling H1N1 flu and the seasonal flu this season have someone in their corner. A subcommittee of the TMA Committee on Infectious Diseases, known as the Flu Fighters, will answer questions and keep practitioners up to date on H1N1 information.
The group's overall objective, says Wendy Chung, MD, MSPH, is to develop physician-directed 2009 H1N1 influenza messages. Dr. Chung is the chief epidemiologist at Dallas County Health and Human Services (DCHHS).
In addition to Dr. Chung, the Flu Fighters are Donald Murphey, MD, Fort Worth; Carl Vartian, MD, Houston; and Susan Penfield, MD, and Bob Kaspar, MD, Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) Infectious Disease Prevention Section, Austin.
The Flu Fighters have developed several recommendations to help physicians respond to outbreaks of the H1N1 flu and seasonal flu.
Refer to Patients With Influenza-Like Illness - Testing, Treatment, and Prophylaxis [ PDF ] on the TMA Web site for the latest guidance on testing, treatment, and prophylaxis. The information was adapted by DCHHS from guidance provided by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Manage Phone Calls to Your Office
Refer patients to the 2-1-1 telephone system or add an on-hold message on your phone giving parents or patients information on what they can do if they have flu-like symptoms. You can adapt or use the three-and-a-half minute on-hold message for pediatricians and other clinicians developed by CDC.
Physicians with clinical questions may also use the 2-1-1 system.
DSHS is providing back-up to the 2-1-1 information specialists, including assistance with vaccine and antiviral questions.
Follow CDC's advice on steps you can take to prepare your office and staff to respond to the H1N1 influenza . In addition to triaging patients to determine who requires a medical evaluation, consider:
- Limiting office visits to those that are medically necessary;
- Temporarily canceling nonessential medical visits (e.g., annual physicals);
- Designating separate blocks of time for noninfluenza and influenza-related patient care;
- Adding signs directing patients and those accompanying them to notify reception personnel if they have symptoms of an influenza-like-illness, and
- Putting up CDC's " Cover Your Cough " signs instructing symptomatic patients to use tissues to cover their cough to contain respiratory secretions.
CDC has developed H1N1 and seasonal flu information, including buttons you can place on your Web site. You also can use your Web site to direct your patients to public service announcements produced by DSHS.
For more information, log on to TMA's influenza page ; CDC's H1N1 flu page ; or DSHS' Texas Flu page .
A DSHS alert in late September said that because of the increased focus on the seasonal flu and novel H1N1 viruses, the demand for seasonal flu vaccine is exceeding manufacturers' expectations, and some physicians have not received their vaccine orders.
The alert, which pointed out that neither DSHS nor CDC control the ordering and/or distribution of seasonal flu vaccine, said about 115 million doses of seasonal flu vaccine had been produced by early September and about 54 million doses were distributed by Sept. 11.
DSHS officials recommend that physicians "network with their colleagues" to make sure vaccine is available to high-risk patients. They added that physicians who do not have adequate seasonal flu vaccine or have had some orders canceled may visit www.preventinfluenza.org . The Web site has a link that is updated weekly and lists vaccine distributers and/or manufacturers who still have product available, DSHS said.
Action , Oct. 2, 2009