Ochsner Prepared If Swine Flu Spreads

Ochsner Health System (www.ochsner.org) is fully prepared to provide medical care and information in the event of an emergency.

“Ochsner has been training for years to handle all types of emergencies, each facility has a pandemic plan, and we’re confident in our ability to serve the public should any suspected cases of Swine Flu present at our facilities,” says Norris Yarbrough, Assistant Vice President of Ochsner Emergency Preparedness and Response.
Ochsner, along with the other hospitals in the region, have been in direct contact with the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness (GOHSEP), monitoring the situation several times, with weekly conference calls and strictly adhering to CDC guidelines.

“We want the public to know that should suspicious symptoms occur, Ochsner is prepared with appropriate CDC protocol,” says Yarbrough. The process includes testing to determine whether the strain is regular influenza versus an un-classified strain. If the case is un-classified, State Police will then transport to the State laboratory in Baton Rouge for further testing and to the CDC for final analysis. “Depending upon the volume of testing, a diagnosis typically returns in 1 to 2 days,” says Yarbrough.

In the event of a Swine Flu diagnosis, the CDC has recommended the use of Tamiflu, which is an antiviral or an antibiotic for the virus to lessen the effects. Ochsner Infectious Disease Specialist, Dr. Kathy Baumgarten, warns, “taking Tamiflu unnecessarily may lead to resistance of the virus and lack of availability to a medication that may be beneficial to someone who does in fact have the flu. Thus we highly discourage people from asking physicians for prescriptions."

The most effective treatment individuals can take is to be aware of the symptoms and respond immediately to their healthcare provider for care.

“Better to be over prepared. At Ochsner, we are strongly stressing appropriate infection control practices for all employees and we’re increasing the number of public hand sanitizer stations within the hospital to encourage employees and patients to sanitize their hands more often,” says Baumgarten.