November 11, 2004

The Flu And You!

The flu season is upon us and many of you in long-term-care have been concerned about obtaining flu shots for your vulnerable populations. The Texas Department of State Health Services issued a news release on November 9, 2004 indicating:

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) today announced that the distribution of some 7.2 million doses of the nation's remaining supply of flu vaccine will be determined by the states' health departments.


Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) officials expect that CDC will allocate some 500,000 to 600,000 of the 7.2 million doses for Texas. DSHS officials are working with local health departments in deciding where the vaccine will go.

The TDSHS indicates that the doses will be distributed to non-public health providers, including nursing homes, hospitals, physicians and others in the private sector. The Austin Business Journal reports that doses being distributed by the CDC will not be shipped directly to state health agencies--but rather will be sent by the manufacturer directly to providers approved by the state agencies.

For those of you in the community--(HCS and ICF-MR), I would check with the attending physician for each your consumers. The Houston Chronicle is reporting that--although dosages are beginning to trickle in--shot seekers are on their own as there is no clearinghouse. I've found nothing specific with regard to you as of yet. If anyone out there has such information--please post a link in Comments and I will update the post.

The Victoria Advocate is reporting that, although the vaccine is not being distributed to the health officials, the public health directors will be instrumental in deciding where the doses end up. In other words, the loca officials will send recommendations to the TDSHS as to where the doses will end up. As reported by the Victoria Advocate:

Dr. Bain Cate, director of the Victoria City/County Health Department, who also has responsibility for Calhoun, DeWitt, and Jackson county health departments, sent a recommendation Wednesday night to the Texas Department of State Health Services for these counties.

Cate recommended specific numbers of vaccine doses that could go to one private hospital and five nursing homes in Victoria and Jackson counties for their high-risk patients who missed out on earlier distributions.

"We're just acting as an ambassador or conduit by providing numbers to get the remaining supplies to private agencies that need them the most," Cate said.

Hopefully, the bureaucratic machinery will move fast. According to Bryan McCleod, a spokesman of the Harris County Hospital District as reported in the Houston Chronicle yesterday:

"Vaccines won't do any good if they stay in the vial," McLeod said. "The longer we wait, the closer we get to a flu outbreak."

In the meantime, ensure that your staff is carefully following universal precautions and that you have a plan in place in the event of a flu outbreak. An in-service on this issue would be extremely beneficial to improve the implementation of your plan. Also, make sure your staff is prepared to speak to surveyors on universal procedures in the event of an outbreak and a resultant investigation by DADS. You want to avoid situations like I described last March in Deficiencies of the Weird:

You Might Also Need to Learn to Levitate Physical Objects

In 2003, a facility in South Texas was cited for infection control. A few residents contracted the flu and the facility took precautions to prevent it from spreading. The facility was cited because nurses were putting blood pressure cuffs onto over-bed tables without setting them on a barrier to prevent contact with the actual table. (Even though the tables had nothing wet on them) The surveyors apparently forgot that blood pressure cuffs are actually put on and come into contact with residents who may be sick.