Facilities try their best to prepare for pandemic
Ninth in a series Hospital administrators Jim Long and Darrold Bertsch have made sure their respective staffs have gained as much knowledge as they can about bird flu. But the pair agrees there's only so much preparation one can do if the bird fl...
Ninth in a series
Hospital administrators Jim Long and Darrold Bertsch have made sure their respective staffs have gained as much knowledge as they can about bird flu.
But the pair agrees there's only so much preparation one can do if the bird flu were to hit the United States.
Avian influenza virus usually refers to influenza A viruses found chiefly in birds, but infections can occur in humans. An outbreak of bird flu has been reported in several countries in Asia.
Of the few avian influenza viruses that have crossed the species barrier to infect humans, it has caused severe disease and death in humans.
"Just like you at home, there's only so much you can do," said Long, the chief at Hettinger's West River Health Care Services. "You make reasonable preparations and try not to get too excessive."
Bertsch, who runs Southwest Healthcare Services in Bowman, shares Long's thoughts.
"It's going to be ugly all over the place if it breaks out," Bertsch said. "You want to make sure you are prepared should something happen. But you can't dedicate all resources planning for it because of the uncertainty."
The staffs at West River and Southwest attended seminars and training for bird flu. Long said a lot of the preparation involves using common sense.
"You do all of the stuff you would normally think to do in a flu season," Long said. "...Wash your hands, wear a mask. The only thing different than other flu prevention measures are to be extremely cautious in handling a dead bird. If you pick it up to dispose of it, make sure you wash your hands right away."
St. Joseph's Hospital and Health Center in Dickinson already has a pandemic plan in place, which would cover the bird flu.
"We have spent a significant amount of money on gloves, masks and gowns in preparation for any type of pandemic," said April Bishop, a St. Joe's spokesman.
Marci Dvorak, St. Joe's infection control nurse, said she's not expecting southwestern North Dakota to see a large influx of patients because of the bird flu.
"Currently it's not in the United States," Dvorak said. "The only way a person can catch bird flu is direct contact with a sick bird."
Bishop encourages the public to receive vaccines, such as the influenza vaccine, to help prevent pandemics.
"It helps the physican identify and treat it easier," she said. We encourage employees and their families to receive the flu shot. We encourage everybody in the public to do the same. There shouldn't be a shortage of vaccine this year."
Like St. Joe's, Great Plains Clinic in Dickinson has pandemic plans already in place.
"If there were an outbreak and we would be overwhelmed with sick people, we would postpone routine things and deal with the sick people," Nurse Practioner Leah Floberg said. "We would designate certain areas in the building. There would be areas where people with influenza can be seen. That would lessen the chance of it spreading. It pertains to bird flu and seasonal influenza."
If a pandemic were to break out, health care facilities would follow guidelines and suggestions provided by the state health department.
"So many things could happen you have to have a general plan," Long said. "People make decisions on the spot and work with other agencies."
Bertsch said Southwest has emergency plans in place for any situation.
"At any given time you might not have a lot of room," Bertsch said. "We pretty much have all beds occupied. We will do whatever possible to participate with the state."
It's wise for the public to prepare for bird flu, but it's not time to panic.