Managing pandemic influenza in general practice

Part A - Introduction


Last revised: 16 Dec 2019

Pandemics are unpredictable but recurring events that can have consequences on human health and economic wellbeing worldwide. Advanced planning and preparedness are critical to help mitigate the impact of a pandemic.1

All pandemics differ – not only from each other, but also in impact across countries and communities. This makes them difficult to predict and therefore to prepare for. One of the most important lessons learned from the 2009 influenza A (H1N1) pandemic was that planning must be flexible to accommodate the biological variations in the clinical picture and potential uniqueness of each pandemic scenario. This will enable resources to be effectively directed to achieve optimal outcomes.2

The H1N1 2009 pandemic increased knowledge and understanding of the influenza virus at the human–animal ecosystem interface. Although the 2009 pandemic was of low severity compared with those of the 20th century, it was the first opportunity to implement pandemic plans in response to a real threat.3 It also demonstrated that many countries’ national and regional response plans were geared towards a high-severity pandemic only and were not adaptable to a more moderate event. Some plans were considered overly rigid and the responses were not appropriate for a more moderate event.1 Since 2009, capability to respond to pandemic influenza has improved in many countries.4 The 2009 pandemic revealed that the majority of patient management was undertaken by the primary care sector.5,6 National and state planning is necessary; however, practices need their own local and flexible pandemic plans.

The 2009 experience assisted the general practice community to strengthen preparedness for future pandemics. Six major themes are considered to be essential for successful pandemic preparedness – communication, coordination, capacity, adaptability/flexibility, leadership and mutual support, which are collectively represented by the acronym CALM.3

The RACGP’s pandemic resources provide practices with information across these themes for use in developing integrated but practice-specific pandemic preparedness and response plans.

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