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Role of the primary care safety net in pandemic influenza

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Influenza is a contagious respiratory disease caused by influenza virus. 5% to 20% of US populations suffer from influenza every year. Elderly, racial and ethnic minority population, person with disabilities and persons with chronic disease are vulnerable population prone to complications of influenza.

Triage and treating influenza illness with disease-modifying antiviral therapies is the key role of primary care safety in influenza pandemic. Primary care health centers provide an essential infrastructure to investigate and treat influenza complications such as pneumonia. They can combine and respond with local public health clinics and offer unique capabilities such as mobile medical van, telemedicine services and mental health services for patients and providers. Additional care to adults and children suffering from acute illnesses and chronic diseases also need to be sustained by primary care. Prenatal care for pregnant women is also taken care of by these health centers. Pharmacy services acts as a potential distribution channel for antiviral medications, vaccines, and other essential supplies. Vaccines are delivered by trained nurses and storage procedures are properly maintained. Primary care practices serve vulnerable population by providing an early warning system for recognizing sudden increase in the incidence of influenza like illness and they also serve as collection site for viral swabs. They detect the unusual strains by providing rapid-testing kits. Sources of health information are also provided to staff members of primary care.

Increased visit to emergency departments may be due to not accessing primary care services. Workforce is also the major issue. Health care professionals and primary care workforces are inadequate to keep up with the pace of influenza. Advanced delivery mechanism should be recommended rather than waiting for urgency to obtain rapid delivery of masks, rapid diagnostic test kits, and antiviral drugs.

Safety net should be built between the public health and primary care for improving the surge capacity. Adequate staff and funding should be provided for free care treatment in underserved population.

Source: http://www.ajph.org/cgi/content/full/99/S2/S316

Written by: healthplus24.com team

Date last updated: December 08, 2014