Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Potential for Hospitals to Be Overwhelmed by Swine Flu Patients

During a typical flu season, approximately 200,000 Americans are hospitalized for treatment of the flu. As we enter this year's flu season, however, the White House has predicted that as many as 1.8 million Americans might be hospitalized during the peak of the swine flu outbreak this fall and winter. Of this 1.8 million, as many as 300,000 Americans might require intensive care for treatment of the H1N1 swine flu. If this scenario occurs, it is predicted that this would overwhelm and swamp the capacity of U.S. hospitals, using up 100 percent of hospital bed capacity. Health officials are currently looking at contingencies to deal with this potential severe shortage of hospital bed capacity. Of concern is the fact that the H1N1 swine flu is predicted to affect - and in fact is already affecting - a much greater portion of the population than that which is normally afflicted with the typical seasonal flu. On the positive side, Kathleen Sebelius, U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services, reported that just today the FDA approved the vaccine for the H1N1 swine flu, allowing the government to proceed forward with its manufacturer and distribution. The vaccine is expected to be available in mid-October and potentially 7 to 10 days earlier for those individuals at the highest risk for the H1N1 swine flu. Distribution of the swine flu vaccine will be determined by plans developed by each of the state health departments.