Falcone, R. et al. Emergency Medicine Reports. December 13, 2015
- The next major pandemic is likely to be due to influenza.
- In an infectious disease pandemic, the hospital resource most at risk for inadequate supply is staff.
- In an infectious disease pandemic, it is recommended that triage be established outside the hospital emergency department.
- Protocols should be developed to guide distribution of intensive care unit (ICU) beds and life-support equipment.
- Psychologic support may be necessary to staff during and after a pandemic event.
The threat of pandemic infectious disease lurks quietly beneath the surface of everyday hospital operations and society at large. Moments of panic inspire waves of planning and preparedness activities as new pathogens and mutations pose transient threats. But in the wake of the immediate danger, these moments compete with full hospital beds, a 24/7 news cycle, and any number of demands for clinicians’ and administrators’ attention.
Pandemics are nebulously defined. Widespread geographic impact is the agreed upon hallmark; experts debate the role of factors such as severity and attack rates in classifying a pandemic, and even apply the label to behaviors and noninfectious diseases.1 In cases such as the 2009 H1N1 influenza outbreak, which the World Health Organization (WHO) labeled a “pandemic” but was ultimately of low severity, debate over the definition can crowd out discussion of planning and preparedness.2 However, the threat of pandemic infectious disease is real and overwhelming.
The potential scope and scale of pandemic influenza, in particular, could be immense. Using previous 20th-century pandemics as a guide, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) estimates that 90 million Americans could fall ill and 209,000 to 1,903,000 could die.3 Social disruption would be significant, and the resources of hospitals and emergency departments (EDs) would be stretched thin.
More than 5 years after the H1N1 pandemic of 2009, this paper examines the history of pandemics’ impact in the United States and worldwide, their likely impact in the near future, the current state of preparedness of United States hospitals, and special considerations for hospital operations during a pandemic.
Carry on reading here