Flu may tax hospitals
BY JIM MYERS World Washington Bureau
Friday, October 02, 2009
10/02/09 at 3:28 AM
Related story: Hospitals aren't expecting the worst.
Get more information on
the swine flu, including prevention
tips and frequently
WASHINGTON — More than 17,000 Oklahomans could fill 57 percent of the state's hospital beds if certain projections for the H1N1 virus prove correct, a report stated Thursday.
Released by the Trust for America's Health, the report also said almost 1.3 million Oklahomans could become ill during such an outbreak.
"Health departments and communities around the country are racing against the clock as the pandemic unfolds,'' said Jeff Levi, executive director of the Trust for America's Health.
"The country's much more prepared than we were a few short years ago for a pandemic, but there are some long-term underlying problems which complicate response efforts, like surge capacity and the need to modernize core public health areas like communications and surveillance capabilities.''
Other key concerns covered by the report:
Last year, only 41.8 percent of adults in Oklahoma were vaccinated against the seasonal flu.
A major upsurge in vaccinations would be needed to vaccinate the entire population for H1N1.
About 70 percent of those over the age of 65 in Oklahoma are vaccinated for the flu annually, but only 27.8 percent of younger adults, ages 18 to 49, receive vaccinations.
H1N1 is considered to be more dangerous to young adults and children, and that means outreach for vaccinations must be different.
The Trust for America's Health based its report on a model developed by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Scott Sproat, chief of emergency response for the Oklahoma State Health Department, said nothing in the report prompted any particular alarm.
Citing results of ongoing monitoring by his agency, Sproat said the state is in better shape than the model projected.
What the model is saying is that the state should be at 57 percent bed capacity toward the middle of an eight-week wave of H1N1, he said, adding that model indicates the number of beds needed should drop after that point in the surge.
Jim Myers (202) 484-1424
Beth Roberts, a St. Francis Children's Hospital pharmacist, uses hand sanitizer from a flu kiosk at the main entrance to St. Francis Hospital on Thursday. SHERRY BROWN/Tulsa World