H5N1 – bird ‘flu: What happens if the critical care system is overwhelmed?

Nov 29, 2006

Doctors, nurses, ethics experts and scientists are preparing plans to make fair decisions about who gets scarce treatment if bird ‘flu spreads to humans, creating a pandemic and overwhelming the critical care services, a scientific meeting heard today, Wednesday 29 November 2006, as part of the Federation of Infection Societies conference in Cardiff.

If a serious outbreak of influenza occurs anywhere in the world, vital medical facilities, such as artificial ventilators and stocks of antiviral treatments, are likely to be in short supply very quickly. Doctors, nurses and their administrative colleagues in Canada have already planned medical protocols which will help make sure that the most urgent patients get the best treatment available.

“Our models of a human ‘flu pandemic in Ontario suggest that we can expect up to 1,823 new cases every day for a six week period at its height” says Dr Michael Christian from the McMaster University, Canada. “This means that 72% of the total hospital capacity would be used by influenza patients. Similarly the demand for intensive care unit resources would peak at 171% of the current ICU bed capacity, and 118% of the ventilator capacity solely for patients with ‘flu, completely overwhelming the critical care facilities”.

The medical predictions during a pandemic do not take into account the current demand for critical care from patients after car smashes, following heart attacks and with other problems needing urgent and specialised treatment, which is already at nearly full capacity for the intensive care units.

“This is the first protocol of its kind to be developed, and should help guide physicians in allocating critical care resources such as ventilators”, says Dr Christian. “Our triage protocol has four main components: deciding who should be included in treatment, who should be excluded, what is the minimum needed to survive and how to prioritise decisions. Although it still requires future testing and revisions, we have released it now to provide a tangible policy to facilitate medical community discussions”.

Source: Society for General Microbiology

Explore further: FTC clears Sun Pharma's $4B purchase of competitor Ranbaxy

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Evolutionary approaches to big-data problems

Jan 15, 2015

The AnyScale Learning For All (ALFA) Group at MIT's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) aims to solve the most challenging big-data problems—questions that go beyond the scope ...

Keeping hackers out of hospitals

Jan 07, 2015

The humble infusion pump: It stands sentinel in the hospital room, injecting patients with measured doses of drugs and writing information to their electronic medical records.

Amputee puts limb system through its paces

Dec 19, 2014

"Amputee Makes History with APL's Modular Prosthetic Limb" is the headline from Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory, where a team working on prosthetics observed a milestone when a double amputee showed ...

Wearable technology may bring health data to doctors

Dec 02, 2014

Wearable consumer devices used to monitor health and fitness could become important sources of information for medical practitioners and insurance providers if a new project led by UNSW researchers is successful.

Simulation predicts epidermal responses to compounds

Nov 18, 2014

Skin is the body's largest organ. It is a protective barrier, keeping microbes out and moisture in. It also regulates temperature, enables sensation, and makes vitamin D. But researchers don't fully understand ...

Recommended for you

Why aren't there any human doctors in Star Wars?

Jan 30, 2015

Though set "a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away," it isn't hard to see in the Star Wars films a vision of our own not so distant future. But Anthony Jones, a physician with a long background in health ...

Cambodia bans 'virgin surgery' adverts

Jan 29, 2015

The Cambodian government has ordered a hospital to stop advertising so-called virginity restoration procedures, saying it harms the "morality" of society.

What's happening with your donated specimen?

Jan 28, 2015

When donating blood, plasma, human tissue or any other bodily sample for medical research, most people might not think about how it's being used. But if you were told, would you care?

Amgen tops Street 4Q forecasts

Jan 27, 2015

Amgen Inc. cruised to a 27 percent jump in fourth-quarter profit and beat Wall Street expectations, due to higher sales of nearly all its medicines, tight cost controls and a tax benefit.

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.