United States: Child care centers can do more to prepare for a flu pandemic
Pandemic influenza is a potentially devastating global health event, and young children in child care centers are a vulnerable group that can increase the spread of pandemic influenza into the community. To see how well child care centers are prepared to manage a pandemic flu outbreak, researchers conducted a telephone-based survey of child care center directors – in both 2008 and 2016 - before and after the 2009 H1N1 novel influenza pandemic. The results of that study appear in the May 2017 issue of Pediatrics.
The study, “Pandemic Influenza Preparedness Among Child Care Center Directorsin 2008 and 2016,” published online May 15, shows that only 7 percent of directors had taken actions to prepare their centers for a pandemic flu outbreak. And, having served as a center director during the 2009 influenza pandemic did not influence preparedness.
An influenza pandemic occurs when a new strain of influenza, to which most of the population is not immune, gains the ability to spread from person to person, and then advances globally. The seasonal flu vaccine would be ineffective early in a pandemic because the virus is unique, meaning time would be needed to engineer and distribute a new vaccine, as occurred in 2009.
To help child care center directors increase preparedness efforts, the researchers recommend that internet-based webinars and self-paced training materials be developed for child care directors and that child care health consultants promote the use of them. Researchers also suggested that requiring pandemic influenza preparedness training for child care center licensure or accreditation also may prove successful in increasing preparedness.