Challenges and solutions: Pandemic 2009 H1N1 influenza A in a pediatric emergency department
Keywords:pandemic, influenza, emergency department, pediatrics
Objective: The purpose of this study was to describe the impact of the 2009 H1N1 influenza pandemic on a pediatric emergency department (ED) at a freestanding children’s hospital in the summer and fall of 2009.
Design: In July 2009, active prospective surveillance for influenza-like illness (ILI) was performed on a daily basis of patients presenting to the ED of Arkansas Children’s Hospital. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention definition of ILI was used. Records of daily ILI volume were kept. A retrospective review of admissions from the ED to the inpatient service was done for patients with ILI and non-ILI. In addition, comparisons of monthly patient census for the months involved were compared with historical census data.
Results: When public schools started in mid- August 2009, there was a rapid and dramatic increase in the number of patients with ILI seen in the pediatric ED.Within 3 weeks, as many as 120 patients with ILI per day were being seen in the ED. The month of September 2009 was the highest census month ever recorded in this ED. The admission rate of the patients with ILI was lower than patients with non-ILI between September and November 2009 (10.8 percent vs 14.8 percent).
Conclusions: The 2009 H1N1 influenza pandemic resulted in unprecedented patient volumes in this pediatric ED; however, patient acuity (based on admission rate) for patients with ILI was lower than patients with non-ILI. Pandemic influenza can overwhelm emergency care resources, even when the overall severity of illness is relatively low.
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