New Guide Prepares Homeless Shelters for Pandemic Flu

Public Health for Seattle & King County has developed a plan that will help the county's homeless service agencies prepare for a flu pandemic. Ayisha Yahya, a staff writer for the University of Minnesota's Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy (CIDRAP), posted a report Dec. 4 about the plan, calling it "one of the most comprehensive pandemic plans for the homeless in the United States." The public health agency prepared it beginning in September 2006 after receiving numerous requests for information about how to cope with a flu pandemic.

Janna Wilson, who heads the department's Health Care for the Homeless Network, said the questions from homeless shelters were complex and sought guidance tailored to their operations and about 8,000 clients, Yahya wrote. The questions included how homeless people would receive vaccines and antiviral drugs, how to manage the crisis with limited resources, and how to keep operating despite staff shortages.

The guide was created with help from public health specialists, local clinics, homeless service and mental health agencies, and others, according to Wilson. "Luckily, we were able to base it loosely on a guide the Toronto health department had published," she told Yahya. She said disease control would be particularly daunting for large, congregate shelters where the homeless are in close quarters. The county may help its shelters with funding for emergency preparedness, which is beyond their financial capacity in some cases, according to the article. (www.cidrap.umn.edu/index.html)

To access the guide, visit www.metrokc.gov/health/pandemicflu/businesses/ and click on the "Inflenza Planning Guide for Homeless and Housing Service Providers" link.

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